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^ix&m 4 Kdhx iarf» 4 S^stalfa nni ©aamania. 









VOL. I. 








« • 

Melboubnb, 13th November 1876. 


I have the honor to lay before you the work I have compiled 

on the Habits of the Aboriginal Natives of Yictoria. 

It is not altogether confined to this colony. There is much 
in it that treats of the customs observed in other parts of Australia, 
and some information respecting the race that formerly inhabited 

I liave the honor to be, 

Your most obedient servant, 


The Honorable John A. MacPherson, M.P., 
Chief Secretary, &c., &c. 



The character of the following work requires that I should mention the 
circmnstances under which I undertook the compilation of it. 

When, sixteen years ago, I was appointed Secretary of the Board for 
the Protection of the Ahorigines, it seemed to me to be my duiy to collect 
information respecting the customs of the people who had formerly owned 
the soil of Australia, and to make accurate drawings of their weapons and 
ornaments. I did not know then that I was conmiencing a work which 
would engage all my leisure for many years, and entail upon me a large 
amount of labor in correspondence alone. I had no idea, indeed, in the 
beginning, that the work would be a large one; but even if it had been 
possible to have foreseen that, and to have anticipated the diJSiculties 
I have had to contend with in tracing various customs from one point 
to another, and in verifying by a number of examples statements that, 
unsupported, appeared at the first view highly improbable — still I should, 
on account of the interest of the questions that presented themselves, and 
from a sense of duty, have labored earnestly in performing the task, / 

For the proper and efficient treatment of such subjects as I have attempted 
to deal with, the mind should be wholly devoted to the consideration of 
them — ^unembarrassed by other onerous duties— or free, at least, from the 
anxieties that are inseparable from an official position in a new country. 
And this compilation should be judged rather as a series of sketches, written 
in such intervals of time as were available^ than as a scientific work pre- 
tending to completeness. 

All that I have done in connection with it is founded on information 
famished by gentlemen who have had frequent and favorable opportunities 
of observing the habits of the natives. When I commenced to figure and 
describe the native weapons, I asked the late Mr. William Thomas, who had 
held the office of Protector or Guardian of Aborigines for nearly twenty- 


five jesxBf to write down under separate heads all that was known to 
him respecting the Aborigines; and thus have been preserved nnmerous 
interesting facts that wonld otherwise have been lost. The Bev. John 
Bnlmer^ Superintendent of the Aboriginal Station at Lake Tjrers in Gipps- 
land^ has contributed many valuable papers^ and has constantly assisted me, 
and has made special enquiries into various questions, whenever he has been 
asked, with a kindness and alacrity which deserve my warmest thanks. Mr. 
John Green, for many years Superintendent of the Station at Coranderrk, 
has also furnished a number of papers, and obtained many facts of singular 
value. He has always responded to every application made to him. The 
late Dr. Gummow, who was resident on the Lower Murray for some time, 
&vored me with much help, and undertook investigations that few but himself 
could have made with success. 

Mr. Alfred W. Howitt, F.G.S., Warden and Police Magistrate at Bairns- 
dale in Gippsland, has not only undertaken the compilation of several 
papers, but has been in constant correspondence with me in reference to 
the habits of the natives, and has always taken the warmest interest in this 
work from the very first. His notes on the Aborigines of Cooper's Creek, 
and his paper on the System of Consanguinity and Kinship of the Brabrolong 
tribe — ^which is but a fragment of a more extensive work that, jointly with the 
Eev. Lorimer Fison, he was to have prepared — are contributions to science 
that will necessarily be highly valued by ethnologists. 

Mr. Philip Chauncy's notes and anecdotes relate to many important 
subjects ; and as this gentleman has had perhaps as large an experience of 
the native character as any one now living, his remarks are entitled to great 
weight. He has written a thoughtful and valuable paper ; and I esteem 
myself singularly fortunate in having perhaps by my efforts to preserve 
some remnants of the histoiy of the Australians secured his co-operation. 

Mr. Albert A. C. Le SouSf has recorded some of the many curious facts 
observed by him during the long period he has resided amongst the natives ; 
and he has likewise ftimished information respecting the weapons in use 
in various parts of the continent. 

From the late Mr. John Moore Davis, who was well acquainted with the 
habits of the Aborigines of the southern parts of Australia, I received a 
paper containing accounts of events that transpired in the early times of 
the settlements. Mr. Davis was remarkably well informed on all the 


subjects referred to in his paper, and he volantarily gave up much of his 
time in preparing his sketches for this work. 

The Eev. William Ridley, MA., of Sydney, whose name is foremost 
amongst those connected with Australian philological researches, has, with 
extreme kindness, contributed a paper in which he relates a few of the most 
remarkable traditions that have come under his observation — selecting, as he 
informs me in a letter, those that seem most emphatically to silence the 
long-current assumption that the Aborigines of Australia are a race destitute 
of all ideas concerning the unseen world and of all imagination and hope. No 
one who has perused the published works of the learned author of the paper 
which appears in this compilation will need to be reminded that he is the 
highest authority in Australia on all matters that relate to the Aboriginal 

I have received ready assistance also from the Bev. F. A. Hagenauer, 
the Superintendent of the Aboriginal Station at Lake Wellington in Oipps- 
land ; the Bev. A. Hartmann, the Bev. F. W. Spieseke, and the Bev. Horatio 
Ellermann, of Lake Hindmarsh; the Bev. Amos Brazier and Mr. Joseph 
Shaw, of Lake Condah ; Mr. H. B. Lane, of Warmambool ; Mr. Goodall, 
the Superintendent of the Aboriginal Station at Framlingham ; Mr. Charles 
Gray, of Nareeb Nareeb ; Mr. J. A. Panton, Police Magistrate and Warden 
at Geelong ; the late Mr. W. H. Wright, Sheriff; the late Mr. A. F. A. 
Greeves and Mr. M. Hervey ; Mr. N. Munro ; the Bev. H. P. Kane ; Mr. 
A. Sullivan, of Bulloo Downs ; Mr. Alfred Telo, Mr. Sydenham Bowden ; Mr. 
F. M. KrausS, Mr. Beginald A. F. Murray, and Mr. Norman Taylor, Geolo- 
gical Surveyors in Victoria ; the Honorable Frederick Barlee, M.P., Colonial 
Secretary in West Australia; Mr. H. Y. L. Brown, Geological Surveyor; 
Mr. George Bridgman, of Gooneenberry, Mackay, Queensland; the Bev. S. 
McFarlane, New Guinea Mission, of Somerset, Cape York; Capt. Cadell; 
Mr. W. E. Stanbridge, Daylesford ; Mr. F. M. Hughan ; Mr. John W. Amos, 
Surveyor; Mr. J. Cosmo Newbery, B.Sc; Mr. Suetonius H. Officer, Murray 
Downs ; Mr. Bonald Gunn, F.E.S., Launceston ; Mr. Hugh M. Hull, Clerk of 
the House of Assembly, Hobart Town ; Mr. J. W. Agnew, Hon. Sec. of the 
Boyal Society of Tasmania; Miss E. M. a^Beckett, who was so good as to 
make a drawing of a characteristic Tasmanian plant; and others whose 
names are mentioned in the work. 

Li conclusion, I have to refer to the great help and encouragement I 
have received from Professor McCoy, of the Melbourne Universily, who has 


taken much trouble with the papers that have been sent to him from time 
to time^ and has constantly assisted me with his advice. It is impossible 
for me to say how deeply I am indebted to him. 

The Honorable John Madden, LL.D., M.P., Minister of Justice, has very 
kindly lent aid whenever I have had to make demands on his time. 

Baron von Mueller, G.M.G., the Government Botanist, has famished in- 
formation respecting the vegetation of the colony, and has made suggestions, 
also, in relation to other researches. 

My obligations to Professor HaUbrd, of the Melbourne University, are 
very great. His notes containing the results of his examination of the 
skulls of the natives are especially interesting. 

Mr. G. H. F. TTlrich, F.G.S., was good enough to examine the stone 
implements, and I was glad to avaQ myself of his assistance, because of 
his accurate knowledge and large experience as a mineralogist. 

Lastly, my thanks are especially due to Mr. John Ferres, the Govern- 
ment Printer, whose high attainments are already everywhere acknowledged ; 
to Major Bichard Shepherd, for the care and skill bestowed by him in pre- 
paring the greater number of the drawings ; and to Mr. F. Grosse, the 
engraver, for the like attention given to the drawings and the wood-cuts. 

Melbourne, 13th November 1876. 



Lbttbb to thb Honorabub thb Chibf Sbobbtabt. 


List ov Xllubtkatzons -.•-....- zlii 

Xettroduotion ----------- xrii 

Phtsigai. Chaxaotbb. — Height, weight, and size. — Color. — Hair. — Odour.— SeDMi. — 
Physical powers. — Use of feet and toes.— Portraits of natires — ^Victoria and Queens- 
land— Tasmanian — Malayo-Polynoflisng Chinese. — ^Natiyes of Australia generally.— 
Half-castes 1 

MxRTAL CflABJLOTiB. — Capacity and faculties.— Thomas Bnngeleen.—Bennilang.— Treat- 
ment of whites. — ^Fidelity. — Courage.r— Modes of expressing defiance and oontempt 
—Modesty.— AJSections .•.•.--••2S 

KuMBBXs AMD DiBTBiBUTioN OT THB Abobiouibb. — Estimate made hy Sir Thomas 
Mitchell— By Mr. B. S. Parker— By Mr. Wm. Thomas.— Nnmhers in the Counties of 
Bourke, Eyelyn, and Momington.— Character of the country inhabited by the natires. 
— Ayailable area.»-The tribes of the riyer-basins.— New estimate of the numbers.- 
Natiyes seen by Landsborongh.— Difficulty of estimating the numbers seen in the 
bush. — ^Bfap showing the areas occupied by tribes. — ^Names of ** petty nations" and 
tribes. — ^Number and distribution of natiyes in 1863 and subsequently. — ^Number 
now liying. — ^Number collected at the seyeral Aboriginal stations - - -SI 

BxBTH ABD Education ov Childbbn. — ^Birth. — Behayiour towards the mother. — Treatment 
of the infant. — ^Mode of cazrylDg children. — ^Nurture. — Procuring food.— Swimming. 
— ^Education. — Sports. — Toys. — ^Natiyes affectionate and gentle in their treatment 
of children. — ^No artificial means used to alter the form of the body of a child. — 
Infanticide. — ^Naming children.— Coming of age of young men and young women 
— Ceremonies in yarious parts of Australia — Tib-but — Murrum Tur-uk-ur-uk— 
Jerryale. — Upper Yarra natiyes. — ^Lake Tyers. — ^The NarrinyerL — ^Port linooln.— 
New South Wales. — Macleay and Nambucca. — Circumcision - - - - 46 

Mabbiaob. — Obtaining wiyes. — ^Betrothals. — Early marriages.— Elopements — The ordeaL 
—Condition of a young unmarried man. — ^Fights. — ^Maiming the bride.— How matches 
are made. — ^Barter. — Meeting of the young man and the young women. — ^Promiscnous 
intercourse not common. — Exogamy. — Classes in Victoria — ^In South Australia. — 
Children take the family name of the mother. — ^A man may not marry a woman of 
hit own dass. — Classes at Port Lincoln — ^In West Australia— In New South Wales 
— At Port Essington. — Inyestigations of Fison and Howitt — Morgan's theories 
respecting laws of marriage and systems of consanguinity — Bridgman's statements 
as to the system in Queensland — Stewart's account of that in force at Mount 
Gambler. — ^Effect of the prohibitions. — ^Latham's remarks on these laws. — Streze- 
lecki's theory respecting curtailment of power of continuing the species under 
certain drcumstanoes — ^Its fallacy exposed. — Statements of Hartmann, Green, and 
Hagenauer. — A man may not see or speak to his mother-in-law. — ^Behayiour towards 
widows. — ^Marriages of black men with white women ••.-•> 76 


DxATH, Aim BmuAi. or thb Dead. — Carrying the remaini of a dead child.— 'Yarioos \ 

modes of disposing of the dead. — ^A dying natire. — Behayionr of the natires. — 
Death. — Preparation of the body for interment. — Inquest. — Belief in sorcery. — 
Interment. — Mourning. — ^The grave. — The widow watching the graye. — ^Death of a 
black after sunset. — ^Rerenge. — Bnmiog the bodies of the dead. — Placing bodies in 
the hollows of trees. — ^Practices of the Gonlbom tribes. — Modes of disposing of the 
dead on the Lower Murray — Stanbridge's account. — Burial ceremonies of the 
Narrinyeri^Of the Encounter Bay tribe— Of the Port Lincoln tribe— Of the West 
Australian blacks —Of the Cooper's Creek tribes — Of the Eraser Island (Queensland) 
tribes. — ^Modes of burial of other unciyilized races ----- 98 

A Natitb EvcAifpicxNT Ain> THB Dailt Lifb or THB Katitbs. — Trayelling.— Cutting 
bark. — Erection of miams. — Arrangement of camps. — Cooking and eating. — 
Goyemment of a camp. — Duties of the head of a fiimily. — Domestic afCairs. — 
Punishment of offences. — Messengers. — Visitors. — Welcoming friends. — Great 
gathering of natiyes at the Merri Creek. — Respect paid to aged persons. — ^Kul-ler- 
kul-lup and Billi-billari. — Influence of old men in the camp. — ^Principal woman of 
the Colac tribe. — Good haters. — ^Their affection for their friends. — Bun-ger-ring. — 
Ning-er-raruoul. — King Benbow. — ^lif e during the four seasons. — Natiyes not alwajrs 
improyident. — Property in land. — Personal rights. — Dogs. — Climbing trees. — 
Signalling. — Swearing amity.— Fights. — Conyeying a challenge. — Dances. — Games 
and amusements. — ^An encampment at night — ^Traffic amongst the tribes - - ISS 

Food. — ^Hunting the kangaroo.— The opossum. — The wombat. — The natiye bear. — ^The 
bandicoot. — ^The porcupine. — ^The natiye dog. — ^The natiye cat. — Squirrels. — Bats. — 
Smaller marsupials. — The emu. — The turkey. — The natiye companion. — Ducks and 
other wild-fowl. — ^Parrots. — Snaring small birds. — Catching crows. — ^The turtle. — 
Reptiles. — Catching fish. — Shell-fish. — Bees. — ^Pupe of ants. — Grubs. — Eggs. — 
Vegetable food. — ^Vegetables that are commonly eaten in yarious parts of Australia. 
—Drinks. — Manna. — ^List of yegetables usually eaten by the natiyes of Victoria. — 
Seeds and grinding seeds. — Compungya. — ^Berries. — ^Nuts. — Naidoo. — Geebung.— 
Fiye-comers. — Nonda. — Bunya-bunya. — Water-yielding trees. — Narcotics. — ^Food of 
the natiyes of Cooper's Creek. — Vegetable food of the natiyes of the North-East. — 
Forbidden food. — Bfirrn-yongs. — Shell-mounds. — Stone-shelters. — Cannibalism. — 
The habits of animals as related by the natiyes • - - - - 183 

DiBBABBs. — Ophthalmia. — Small-pox. — ^Diseases affecting the natiyes prior to the adyent 
of the whites. — Natiye doctors and their methods of treating diseases. — ^Reports of 
Thomas and Goodwin on the diseases of the natiyes ----- 258 

Dbb88 Ain> Pbrsonal Oknaxbhts. — ^Dress and ornaments of the natiyes of the Tarra — 
Of Gippsland— Of the Lower Murray — Of the natiyes of North-East Australia— 
Of the Dieyerie tribe -• 270 

OBHAMBMTATioir. — Character of the ornamentation of shields and other weapons in 
Victoria and other parts of Australia. — Pictures on bark. — ^Design for a tomb-stone. 
— Ornamentation of opossum rugs. — ^Pictures in cayes. — Pictures on rocks. — ^Depuch 
Island. — Colors used. — ^Raised cicatrices. — Comparison of designs of Australians with 
those of the natiyes of New Guineai Fiji, and New Zealand - . - - 283 

OiTBNsryB Wbapons. — Clubs — Kud-]ee-nm — Kul-luk — Warra-warra — Leon-ile — Eon- 
nung — Bittergan. — Spears — Mongile — Nandum -^ Tir-rer — Eoanie — Gow-dalie— 
Worme-goram — Ugie-koanie — Koy-yun. — Spears with stone heads.— Womerah or 
Gur-reek used for throwing spears. — ^Throw-sticks — ^Wong^uim — ^Bam-geet — Li-lil — 
Quirriang-an-wun. — Various weapons compared. — Boomerangs whidi return and 
those which do not return. — Characteristics of the boomerang which returns to the 
thrower— Its axes. — ^Errors made in experimenting with throw-sticks. — ^Egyptian 
boomerang. — The hunga munga. — The trombash. — The es-sellem. — ^New boomerang. 
— ^Ferguson on the cateia. — Ornamented boomerangs ----- 299 



Dkfensitx Wejlpons. — Shields — Mnlga— Gee-«in— Goohnany. — Shiddb in use at Bock- 

ingham Bay .......... 830 

Weapons Ajn> iMPLEiiEirrs of the West Australians. — ^Eylie. — ^The gid-jee and other 
spears. — ^The meero. — ^The woonda or wooden shield. — ^The kadjo or stone hammer. — 
The stone chisel.— The meat-cntter. — ^The scoop or spade. — ^Other implements • 836 

Imflembnts and Manxtfaotubes. — ^Bags and baskets. — ^Wooden vessels for holding water. 
— Skins. — Sknll drinking cnp. — Bark yessels. — Shelb. — Tool for scraping. — Tool 
for carving. — Awls and nails. — The kan-nan. — The nerum. — The weet-weet. — 
Corrobboree-sticks. — Message-sticks ....... 342 

Stone Ikplements. — Hatchets. — Rocks used. — Quarries. — FalsBolithic and Neolithic 
periods. — Old axes and chips and flakes found in the soil — Axes not found in the 
alluYia. — ^Figures and descriptions of stone tomahawks.-^Axe found on Fitcaim's 
Island. — ^Uses of the tomahawk. — Chisels and knives. — ^New Zealand axe. — ^Chips 
for spears — For scarring the flesh — ^For skins and for scraping, &c. — Stones for 
pounding and grinding seeds. — Sharpening-stones. — Stones used in fishing. — Stones 
used in basket-making.— Sacred stones ...... 357 

Nets and Fish-hooks. — ^Large net. — ^Hand-net, — ^Fibres used in making nets.— Fish-hooks 388 

Methods of Pboduoino Fibe. — Twirling the upright stick. — ^Subbing across a crack with 
the wooden knife. — ^Methods of producing flre in Tarious parts of the world. — ^Holy 
fires of the Germanic races. — ^Witchciaft. — ^Fire produced acddentallj. — ^Volcanoes - 398 

Canoesl — ^Bark canoes of the Victorian natives.— How propelled. — Cutting bark for canoes. 
^Trees yielding bark suitable for making canoes. — ^Numbers carried in canoes of 
various sizes. — ^Natives fishing from canoes. — Statements relating to the canoes in 
use in various parts of Australia ....... 407 

Htths.— PondjeL — The first men. — ^The first women. — ^The dispersion of mankind.— Death. 
—The man with a tall. — Origin of the sea.— How water was first obtained — ^The 
sun. — ^The moon. — ^The sun, the moon, and the stars. — ^Native names of and tales 
respecting the sun, the moon, and the stars. — The bun-yip. — ^Myndie.— Kur-bo-roo. — 
Mirram and Warreen. — Boor-a*meel. — The emu and the crow. — The eagle, the 
mopoke, and the crow. — Mommoot-bullarto mommoot. -^ Loo-erm. — • Wi-won- 
der-rer. — Buk-ker-til-lible. — The River Murray. — Nmng-a-narguna. — Eootchee.— 
Fire— How Fire was first obtained. — ^Priests and sorcerers.— Marm-bu-la.—BowkaQ, 
Brewin, and Bullundoot. — ^Aboriginal legend of a deluge. — The Fort Albert frog.— 
How the blackf ellows lost and regained fire. ^>- The native dog. — The history of 
Bolgan .-•---^--.-488 


A CosBOBBOBEB (Frontispiece). 


Natires of Gippaland - - - - -- - • - 9 

KatiTes of difEerent parts of Victoria ...... 9 

A full-blooded black (male) - - -- - • • -10 

A full-blooded black (female) ....... 10 

Natiyes of Queensland - -'- - - - - - -ll 

Native of Tasmania .-.-..... 13 

Maories - - - - - - - - •• -IS 

Native of Cook or Hervey's Group ------- 14 

Native of Cbina ..--....-« 15 

Diagram — Marriages in New Norda ----... 88 

Native dogs ---..-..-• 150 

Climbing a tree at Twofold Bay -..-.-- 151 

Climbing a tree in Queensland --.---.. 152 

Per-bo-re-gan -..---... 175 

Turkey snare ---------- 199 

Nardoo plant ---------- 917 

Fruit of Bunya-bunya --------- 9I8 

A weir -----^--.- 934 

Murri-guile 271 

Til-bur-nin - 979 

Mar-rung-nul ---------- 976 

Moolong-nyeerd --------- 975 

Ni-yeerd -----------977 

Necklace of teeth -.-. 979 

Necklace of reeds .-.-..... 278 

Necklace with pendant --•--.-. 979 

Ngungy-ngungy --------.- 979 

Carr-e-la ----.....- 279 

Oogee - - - - - - - - -.- - 980 

Patterns adopted in ornamenting weapons, &e. • • - - . 984-980 

Representation of the human figure -..--.. 995 

Copy of a picture on bark ---..-•- 997 

A tomb-board ----..-••. 988 

Figure of a reptile ---..-.-- 998 

Harks on figures in caves ..-....• 990 

Figures of animals on rocks on Depuch Island ..... 993 

Patterns adopted in scarring the body ....... 995 

Forms of ornamentation in New Guinea ------ 995 

Forms of ornamentation in New Zealand ...... 997 

Forms of ornamentation in Fiji ...--.. 997 



MarkB on Fijian pottery •-.----- 898 

Kud-jer-oong -.-- 299 

Corred stick! or clubs, Thebes -.-.--- 299 

Various forms of clubs --------- SCO 

Kul-luk SOI 

Womt-worra ---------- 301 

Leon-ile 802 

Waddy, Cooper's Creek 302 

Kon-nung ---------- 302 

Meero, Queensland -.- - - - - - - - 802 

Bittergan, Queensland -..----- 303 

Sword, Rockingham Bay --------- 803 

Mongile, barbed with chips of basalt 804 

Mongile, with barbs of wood -------- 304 

Barbed spear - • -.- - - - - - - 804 

Various forms of the Nandum •---•-•- 306 

Reed-spear .--------- 305 

Fishing spears ---------- 306 

Ujie-koanie 807 

Tir-rer 807 

Koy-jrun ---------- 307 

Barbed spear, Central Australia 80S 

Stone-headed spear, North Australia ------ 308 

Paddle-shaped club. North Australia .------ 308 

Btone-headed spear --------- 309 

Various forms of the Kur-ruk or Throwing-stick ----- 309 

Figure showing how the Kur^ruk is used ------ 310 

Wonguim ----------- 811 

Bam-geet ,--•------ 313 

Li-m 814 

Quirriang-an-wun .-------- 815 

Group of leaf-shaped missiles -------- 815 

Diagrams showing the form of the Boomerang . - - - • 317-318 

Hunga Munga - ------••- 824 

Trombash 824 

Es-sellem 324 

Boomerang ----•-•-•- 324 

Belgic Briton -.-*------- 328 

Ornamented Boomerang, Queensland -.---- 339 

Mulga 830 

Various forms of the Mulga -------- 331 

Various forms of the Drunmung ------. 331 

Other forms of the Mulga .--..-.- 832 

Various forms of the Gtoe-am or Eerreem .*..-- 333 

Goolmarry, Queensland ----.--- 334 

Wooden shield, Rockingham Bay ------- 334 

Various forms of the Eylie, West Australia • . - . . 335 

Gid-jee, West Australia --------- 386 

light spear, West Australia -------- 333 

Barbed spear, West Australia - 337 

Spear with two prongs and barbed. West Australia . - - ^ 337 

Spear with four prongs, North-West Australia ----- - 338 

Various forms of the Meero, West Australia . - • . . 333 

Woonda, West Australia - -------. 339 

Kad-jo, West Australia -------- 340 

Dhabba, West Australia --------- 340 

Meat-cutter, West Australia ------- 341 


Waal-bee, West Australia ........341 

Bag or basket ......... 343 

Large bag .......... 344 

Bee-lang --.....--. 344 

Flat basket, Western District 845 

Bin-nuk -..----... 345 

Small basket, Qneoisland .....^.. 345 

Wicker-work bottle, Qaeensland ....... 346 

Tanmk buUito, Tamuk, and No-been-tamo ...... 347 

Leange-walert ......... 349 

Various forms of bone awls ........ 350 

Spine of the porcupine ........ 350 

Kan-nan ..-..--..-- 351 

Kerum ..-..--... 351 
Weet-weet ----.-.-.-352 

Message-stick, Queensland ........ 354 

Message-sticks, West Australia ...-..-- 855 

Koom-goon --.-.-..-. 356 

Section of stone hatchet ......... 363 

Hatchet with handle, Yarra Yarra ....... 865 

Hatchet with handle, Lake Tyers ....... 306 

Hatchet with handle. Lake Tjers ....... 366 

Hatchet with handle ......... 357 

Hatchet with handle, Queensland ....... 357 

Hatchet with handle, Munara District ....... 868 

Large stone axe, Daylesford ........ 368 

Large stone aze. Lake Condah ........ 368 

Various forms of stone hatchets ....... 359 

Various forms of stone hatchets ........ 370 

Fragments of stone axes - - - - - - - - 371 

Stone aze, Winchelsea .-. . . . . . . . 372 

Stone axe, Dargo Riyer ........ 372 

Large stone aze, New South Wales ....... 373 

Stone aze, Pitcaim's Island ........ 377 

Stone chisel or gouge. Grey Ranges ....... 379 

Stone knife. Cooper's Creek ........ 380 

Stone knife .......... 330 

Ch^ps for spears ......... 330 

Chips for cutting scars ......... 381 

Chips for skinning opossums ....... 331 

Fragment of a tomahawk - ...... 331 

Fragments of tomahawks, &c. ....... 332 

Chip of chert .......... 332 

Stones for grinding seeds and fruits - - - - - - - 883 

Sharpening-stone .......... 383 

Sbarpening-stones ......... 334 

Stone used in fishing, &c. ........ 335 

Hand-net .......... 339 

Fishing-net, Yarra Yarra ........ 390 

Mesh of fishing-net, Queensland - - .... 390 

Fish-hook, Qippsland - - - - - - - - -391 

Instrument for catching fish, Gteelong - - - - - - 391 

Instrument for catching fish, Queensland - - - - - -391 

Fish-hook, Rockingham Bay - - - - - -. - 391 

Fish-hook, New Zealand .........39a 

Producing fire by twirling the upright stick ..... 393 

Fire-sticks .......... 393 


Piododng lire with the wooden knife ...... 395 

TrodudngHre .......... 895 

FrDdaeiiig fire with the bowy America ...... 401 

rii i f ■! lug baric for > emoe ........ 407 

Bnk caooet (two forms) ........ 408 

Ikripp i ng bark for a canoe ........ 409 

Ifmgtam Aawing the form of tiie canoe ...... 410 

Xreei firoai which baric is taken - 410 

Tnes stripped 41S 

LakeTfCfv ....413 



of the areas formerly occupied by the Tribes of Yictoria - End of toL 


Thboughout Australia the natives exhibit a general conformity to one pattern, 
as regards features, color, and mental character. A man from Southern 
Gippsland would be recognised as an Australian by the inhabitants of Port 
Essington, and a native of King George's Sound would be surely known if 
taken to York Peninsula. The race, however, is not pure in all parts. The 
people of the islands of Torres Straits and the natives of New Guinea visit the 
mainland, and Australians cross the straits to New Guinea. They intermarry, 
and the half-breeds mix necessarily with their southern neighbours, and this 
may account for the appearance, as low down as the latitude of Wide Bay, of 
men with thrum-like hair. 

Cape York is distant no more than ninety miles from the shores of New 
Guinea, the straits are studded with islands, and the coral reefs offer so much 
protection that the sea is usually as calm as the waters of a pond. The natives 
easily tvaverse this smooth sea in their large canoes ; and there is consequently 
regular traffic between the peoples of the mainland and the smaller and greater 

The inftision of Papuan blood may not have entirely changed the character 
of any tribe, but it is there ; and it is apparent where the Papuans have never 
been. This affects the people of the north-eastern coast. On the north the 
Australians mix occasionally with the Chinese. 

There have been found on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria " earthen 
jars^ bamboos, lattice work, remains of hats made of palm leaves, pieces of blue 
cotton, boats' rudders, a wooden anchor, and other articles."* On the north- 
west they have been visited periodically, for how many years no one can tell, by 
the Malays. The Malays go thither during the season of the trepang fishery, 
and Capt. King found on the beach of Yansittart Bay a broken earthen pot 
belonging to them.f 

Stokes, too, mentions his finding a broken jar on Turtle Island, which it 
was supposed had been left by some of the Macassar people, who are occasion- 
ally blown in upon that part of the coast.| 

Such influences as these have been at work probably for ages, and yet the 
effects are scarcely perceptible, either in the appearance of the natives them- 
selves or in their arms or in their works of art — save perhaps over a limited 

* Australian Discovery and Colonization, p. 336. f K^> ^^^ ^-i P* ^^O* 

X Discoveries in Australia, vol. n., p. 180. 



area on the north-east coast, where the AnBtralians build and sail canoes alto- 
gether different from those known elsewhere. 

The Australian type is well marked. The Australian differs from the 
Papuan in form and in color — ^from the Tasmanian less perhaps in the features 
of the face than in the form of the body, in color, and in the hair. StiU less 
does the Australian show any resemblance to the Polynesian, the Malayan, or 
the Chinese. He is darker, and his eyes are horizontal. K he has not a better 
head, he has probably, from what is known of him, a brain of a different 
quality. In his myths, his tales, and his superstitions, he differs from the 
Polynesians, the Malays, and the Chinese. If he is not a poet, he has in him 
the elements of poetry ; and in many of his legends there is much that is not 
unlike the earlier forms of poetic conceptions that distinguish the Aryan race 
from other races that were subject to the same local influences but derived 
from them no such inspirations as the ancient Sanscrit peoples embodied in 
their traditions. 

The natives of Australia dislike labor ; and their muscles and their hands 
are those of sportsmen or hunters. It would be impossible to find in a tribe of 
Australians such hands as are seen amongst the working classes in Europe. 
An English ploughman might perhaps insert two of his fingers in the hole of 
an Australian's shield, but he could do no more. 

The Australian can endure fatigue, but he is not one to bear burdens, to dig 
laboriously, or to suffer restraint. He likes to exert himself when exertion is 
pleasurable, but not for ulterior purposes will he slave, as the white man 
slaves, nor would he work as the negro works, under the lash. 

He is courageous when opposed to a mortal enemy, and timid in tlie dark- 
ness of night when he believes that wicked spirits are abroad ; he is cruel to 
his foes, and kind to his friends; he will look upon infanticide without 
repugnance, but he is affectionate in the treatment of the children that are 
permitted to live ; he will half-murder a girl in order to possess her as a wife, 
but he will protect her and love her when she resigns herself to his will. He 
is a murderer when his tribe requires a murder to be done ; but in a fight he is 
generous, and takes no unfair advantage. He is affectionate towards his 
relatives, and respectfcd and dutiful in his behaviour to the aged. He is 
hospitable. He has many very good qualities and many very bad ones ; and 
in the contrarieties of his mental constitution there is much to remind us of the 
peculiarities of the people of our own race. 

As may be supposed, there were no insane persons and no idiots amongst 

the Australians, and suicide was xmknown when they were living in their wild 

As soon as the white man established himself on the rich pastoral lands of 

Victoria, and the natives were driven first from one spot and then from 

another, in order that the cattle and sheep of the invaders might feed peaceably 

and grow fat, tribes that perhaps had never met before were compelled to 

mingle. The ancient land marks were obliterated, the ancient boundaries had 

ceased to have any meaning, and the people, confrised and half-stupefied by the 

new and extraordinary character of the circumstances so suddenly forced upon 


them, almost forgot the duties their tribal laws imposed upon them when they 
were brought face to face with strange blacks. They speared the cattle of the 
settler, stole his stores, murdered his shepherds at lonely out-stations, and, 
unable to combine and offer determined resistance to the invaders, they were 
undoubtedly in many cases the more savage and cruel when they succeeded in 
getting the whites into their power. These offences compelled the settlers to 
make reprisals — ^to take measures in short to retain possession of the country ; 
and many of the stories told of the olden time are not much to the credit of 
the Europeans. Neither the rifle nor the pistol, however, was so effectual in 
destroying the natives as the diseases and vices introduced by the pioneers. 
Arms were used, and perhaps very often in righteous self-defence ; but it was 
the kindness of the civilized immigrant that swept off the native population. 
His spirituous liquors, and his attentions to the black man's wives, soon made 
havoc amongst the savages. 

Very different estimates have been made of the numbers of natives who 
were living in that part of Australia now known as Victoria when the first 
white settlers arrived. Sir Thomas Mitchell saw very few natives, and in the 
parts he explored — amounting in the aggregate to about one-seventh of the 
continent — ^he believed there were no more than 6,000 Aboriginals. This 
estimate is too low. Mr. E. S. Parker thought there were 7,500 in Victoria, 
Mr. Wm. Thomas 6,000, Mr. Robinson 5,000, and my own estimate, from facts 
I have collected, is 3,000. The mean of the whole, including Sir Thomas 
Mitchell's low estimate, is 4,500. 

It must not be forgotten that long prior to the explorations of Sir Thomas 
Mitchell the native population had suffered severely from a horrible disease 
which, there is every reason to believe, was introduced by the whites. Small- 
pox had destroyed large numbers ; and it is not probable, even after the lapse 
of forty years, when Sir Thomas explored the Darling and the tributaries of 
the Murray, that the several tribes had recovered the losses they had sustained 
by the terrible affliction that first made itself manifest at Point Maskeleyne. 

In Gippsland there were certainly more than one thousand natives ; now 
the number is about two hundred. The two Melbourne tribes numbered in 
1838 two hundred and ninety-two, and at the present time there are perhaps 
not twenty left. The Geelong tribe, when the first settler built his hut on the 
banks of the River Barwon, was composed of one hundred and seveniy-three 
persons at least; in 1853, about twenty years after, only thirty-four remained; 
and I believe there is now not more than one alive. The "petty nation" — the 
Jajowurrong, consisting of seven tribes — ^that once occupied the basin of the 
Loddon and the country towards the west, has been dispersed, and there are 
very few of that sept to be found anywhere. The Goulburn tribes, that of 
Omeo, and many of those that formerly inhabited the banks of the River 
Murray, have disappeared. There are remnants of nearly all the tribes, how- 
ever, in various parts of the colony, or persons who by birth are nearly or 
remotely connected with the extinct tribes ; and because of the exertions of the 
noblemen and gentlemen who have at various times held the high office of Her 
Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, much has beea done to ameliorate 


the condition of the natives that surviyed the first contact with the vices and 
contaminations of the whites. 

And the Qovemment of Victoria has done much to benefit them. The 
Parliament of Victoria has been liberal in its grants of money, and stations 
have been formed, schools established, and lands reserved for ttie use and for 
the improvement of the blacks. Missionaries — able, earnest, and thoughtful 
men — ^have given their time, their energies, and their abilities to work they 
believe will have fruitfdl results. Some of the gentlemen in Victoria — clergy- 
men — ^who have education and abilities that would place them in the first rank 
in their profession, have voluntarily sacrificed all hopes of preferment, and have 
devoted their lives to the task of ameliorating the condition of our native 
population, knowing that, whatever measure of success may follow on their 
labors, no reward will be theirs, and perhaps not even a grateful memory of 
their services will survive. 

The natives of Victoria were under the protection of guardians during the 
period extending from the 1st July 1851 to the 18th June 1860, and the 
aggregate sum expended under that system was £14,181 8s. The results were 
not such as to satisfy the colonists. The blacks wandered from place to place, 
and everywhere readily obtained the means of purchasing intoxicating liquors. 
There were few children, and the condition of the people generally was 
deplorable. In 1858 a select committee of the Legislative Council was 
appointed, on the motion of the Honorable T. McCombie, to enquire into their 
state, and to suggest means for alleviating their wants ; and a report containing 
many very interesting statements from colonists in all parts of Victoria was 
printed in February 1859. On the 18th June 1860 a Board was appointed for 
the Protection of the Aborigines, and on the 11th November 1869 an Act was 
passed providing for their protection and management. 

The moneys expended under this system amount altogether to more than 

Savages and barbarians are kind to their offspring. When a child is bom 
in Australia, and it is determined by the parents that it shall not be destroyed, 
every care is taken of it, and the mother also receives for a brief period all 
those attentions which are proper under the circumstances. 

The mother usually carries her infant in her opossum rug, which is so folded 
as to form a sort of bag at her back ; and this is not at aU an inconvenient 
position for the infant, as it enjoys all the comforts which the young of the 
kangaroo is entitled to when in the marsupium. In the northern parts of 
Australia — in Arnhem Land — ^where the natives do not make rugs, the infant's 
legs are placed over the shoulders of the mother ; she holds the legs in her 
hands when necessary, and the little creature grasps with its small hands her 
abundant hair. 

It is worthy of remark that the practice of placing infants bom near the 
sea-shore in hot sand, from which all sticks, stones, and rough materials have 
been removed, is known not only in Australia, but also in New Quinea ; and 
adults, on the northern coast, sometimes scoop holes in the sand, cover them- 
selves, and sleep there. 


The Anstralian mother has no great reason to rejoice when a babe is bom. 
As soon as she can move about — ^perhaps after the lapse of twenty-four hours or 
more — she is obliged to resume her duties in the camp. She is the servant of 
her husband; and sometimes she is compelled to carry, as well as her baby, 
heavy loads, and to march with the tribe as it seeks firesh hunting-grounds or 
repairs to old-established cooking-places. 

The Australian child is precocious. It begins to look about for food almost 
as soon as the young of the kangaroo. A child has a little stick placed in its 
hands, and it follows the example of older children, and digs out small roots 
and the larvad of insects. 

Its education begins at an early age. Like the natives of Africa, of F\ji, of 
Borneo, and other parts where civilization, as regards some of the tribes, is yet 
unknown, games of skill, so contrived as to exercise the children in useful arts, 
are played. The males amongst the Australians are taught to throw the spear 
and to use the shield ; and the females are instructed in the art of weaving cord 
and making baskets. 

That the children are sometimes neglected is true, but as a rule they are 
kindly treated. 

The parents do not use any of those contrivances for producing distortion 
which are common in other countries. 

When, for reasons that are satisfactory to themselves, they decide to kill a 
newly-born infant, they are often unnecessarily cruel; and though infanticide 
amongst savages is probably a custom which has its origin in the peculiarity of 
the conditions under which they exist, and not in its nature a crime as it is in 
civilized communities, yet the details which are given by various observers 
make one forget this, and regard their deeds with the same abhorrence as those 
so constantly presented to notice in the daily records of the life of races that 
possess all the advantages of culture and refinement. 

Young mothers kill the first-bom child because it is a burden, because it is 
weakly, perhaps because it is deformed. She has to find food, to' build her 
husband's miam, to fetch water, and to be ready at all times to obey the 
commands of her protector ; and the temptation to follow the custom of her 
tribe would not always be overcome by the maternal instinct. 

In the laws known to her, infanticide is a necessary practice, and one which, 
if disregarded, would, xmder certain circumstances, be disapproved of; and the 
disapproval would be marked by punishment, not so degrading perhaps, but 
nearly as severe as that inflicted by the lower class of whites when their wives 
displease them. Instead of the hob-nailed shoe, the Australian uses a weapon 
of war — ^a waddy. 

It is curious to find that the ancient custom of naming a child from some 
slight circumstance that occurs at its birth is common throughout Australia. 
Like the nomadic Arabs and the Kaffirs of Africa, they look for a sign ; and the 
appearance at the time of birth of a kangaroo, or an emu, or the event 
happening near some particular spot, or under the shelter of a tree, decides by 
what name the infant shall be called. This name is not the one by which a man 
will be known in after-life. Another is given on his initiation to rank in the 


tribe ; and if his career should be marked by any striking event, he will then 
receive a fitting designation, and his old name will be perhaps forgotten. Or, 
if he has had conferred on him, on arriving at manhood, a name similar in 
sound to that of any one who dies, it is changed by his tribe. 

There is no kind of formality used when a child is named. Up to the age 
of two or three years it is called "child," or "girl," and then, when it can walk, 
the name that has lived in the memory of the father or mother, or the people of 
the tribe, is given to it. 

The Rev. Mr. Taplin refers to a curious custom. It appears that in some 
families it is usual for the father or mother to bear the name of a child, 
and in such cases the termination ami for father, or annike for mother, is 

Nick-names are given ; and the natives are often peculiarly happy in choosing 
designations that aptly describe eccentricities, peculiarities of face, or ways of 
walking or speakings 

As soon as the whites settled in Victoria, the Aborigines gave nick-names 
to the invaders, and some of these have been preserved.* 

It is said that in Gippsland the word Bungil is one of respect, and is 
equivalent to " Mister." It is borne only by the old men. 

The ceremonies attending the coming of age of young men and young 
women are in Victoria simple, and easy to be borne, compared to those which 
young persons have to submit to in other parts of the continent. The mysteries 
of Tib-but and Mur-rum Tur^uk ur-uk one can regard as merely painless follies, 
after perusing Mr. Schiinnann's descriptions of the rites as practised by the 
Parnkalla — ^where a youth of the age of fourteen or fifteen enters the first 
degree, and is enrolled amongst the Warrara; after the lapse of one or two I 

years the second, when he is circumcised, and becomes a Pardnapa; and the 
last when his skin is scarred,- and he is named afresh, and made a Wilyalkinye. 

Mr. Samuel Gason's accounts of the tortures that have to be endured by the 
rising genferation at Cooper's Creek would lead the reader to suppose that the 
Aboriginal race in that area must soon become extinct. They are horrible ; and 
greatly contrast the comparatively harmless exercises of the natives of Gipps- 
land when a youth is made Jerryale. 

The interesting descriptions given of these ceremonies, as practised in the 
central parts of Australia, near the mouth of the Murray, in various parts of 
New South Wales, near Sydney, and on the Macleay and Nambucca Rivers, are 
exceedingly valuable. The practices are different not merely in details, but in 

Women are not allowed to witness the savage scenes attendant on these 
ceremonies ; and if one intruded on the occasion of initiating youths to man- 
hood, she would probably be killed at once. They are forbidden to see or hear 
anything connected with the events, and indeed it would be impossible for the 
men to continue the tortures if women were present. Warriors shed tears, and 
evince pity at certain stages ; and women would, by their weeping and wailing. 

♦ See Vocabulary compiled by C. J. TyerB, Esq., in 1842. 


utterly mmerye the candidates^ and discompose the principal actors in the per* 

In Africa, where similar customs are observed, the fetich-man blows a kind 
of whistle made of hollowed mangrove wood, and the sound is probably a signal 
to those not privileged to keep away ; just as the Witama is used for this pur- 
pose in Australia. 

The practice of mutilating the body prevails in all parts of Australia. In 
New South Wales, the women, at an early age, are subjected to an uncommon 
mutilation of the two first joints of the little finger of the left hand. The 
operation is performed when they are very young, and is done under an idea 
that these joints of the little finger are in the way when they wind their fishing 
lines over the hand. This amputation is termed Mai-gun.* 

Knocking out the teeth, boring the septum of the nose, cutting and scarring 
the skin, and circumcision, division, perforation, and depilation are practised — 
some in one part and some in another — ^throughout the continent. In all these 
strange customs, as used by them, the natives do but follow the habits of savages 
and barbarians in other parts of the world ; and one is made to believe and to 
repeat that man, spring from what race he may, will, under the same set of 
circumstances, and under like conditions of food and climate, originate and adopt 
similar practices. The mutilation known as MaUgun is not confined, it is 
believed, to New South Wales. Knocking out the teeth is an ancient custom, 
and has spread widely. Dampier observed it amonefst the natives of the 
nortl..™tl,.,t, ™d if i, perh.lL the mo.t common of .U ttoir ^r^^ 

Circumcision and other similar mutilations are, it has been suggested, of 
modem date, and may have been dejrived from intercourse with the Malay 
trepang-fishers. The custom, as observed by the most ancient amongst the 
peoples of the earth, is, and was some thousands of years ago, a religious rite, 
and differs altogether from the practice of the blacks, who in this merely 
endeavour to test the powers of endurance of a candidate for admission to a 
certain rank in the tribe. In considering the effect, however, of this and other 
practices that are mentioned, one may believe that they are really indigenous, 
and that they have originated either in consequence of a peculiarity of climate 
or from the necessity of limiting the population. 

It is undoubtedly true that some customs that could have originated in no 
other manner than in the pressing necessities of their mode of existence are 
exactly similar to many that have been regarded heretofore as peculiar to ancient 
forms of civilization, and it is unwise and unphilosophical to decide hastily that 
even such a rite as that of circumcision is not bom of the circumstances of the 

The savage, in many things, is — ^as it were by nature — cruel. What, for 
instance, could be more dreadftd than to seize an unsuspecting youth, drag him 
from the camp, and subject him to hunger and cold for days and nights, knock 
out a tooth with a piece of wood, scar his skin, and compel him to submit to 

* TU English Cdbny in New South Waks, bj Lieut.-Ck>L CoIUdb, 1804. 


other frightM mntilations? Some, among the weaker, die in consequence of 
their sufferings under such ordeals, and others have implanted in them the seeds 
of diseases which ultimately prove fatal. 

When a young man has undergone all the ceremonies which are necessary to 
his attaining the rank of a warrior, he may look out for a wife. K he is the 
child of a distinguished man, perhaps because of the influence of his father, a 
girl may have been promised to him, and his wedding may cause but little 
trouble; but, as a rule, he must steal a girl, or elope with one, or exchange some 
girl over whom he has control as brother, uncle, or relative in some other 
degree, for a girl of a neighbouring tribe. Exogamy, it is perhaps true to say, 
is universal. A tribe is in fact but an enlargement of a &mily circle, and none 
within it can intermarry. A man must get a wife from a neighbouring tribe 
either by consent, or by barter, or by theft. 

If a man steals a girl, there is sure to be a quarrel of some sort. It may be 
settled amicably, or the culprit may be required to stand in front of those he 
has wronged by the abduction, and allow them to hurl their spears or boomerangs 
at him. A trial by combat may result in various ways. The lover may prove 
victorious and win his bride, or he may be wounded and beaten and lose her; or, 
as not seldom happens, either in the ordeal, when spears are thrown, or when 
two are fighting with club and shield, the old men may interfere, if enough has 
been done to satisfy justice, and declare a verdict. On some occasions, but 
seldom, a general fight occurs, and one or two may be klQed. 

From the evidence that has been gathered, it would seem that very often 
love — ^in our sense of the word — ^prompts the young people to seek each other's 
society, and it is certainly true that the husband and wife, in some cases, evince 
the strongest affection towards one another; but marriage — ^if the word can be 
properly used in reference to such unions — is usually a matter in which love 
has no part. The bride is dragged from her home — she is unwilling to leave it; 
and if fears are entertained that she will endeavour to escape, a spear is thrust 
through her foot or her leg. A kind husband will, however, ultimately evoke 
affection, and fidelity and true love are not rare in Australian families. A 
widow will die of grief on the grave of her husband, and a widower will mourn 
and reftise to be comforted until death also claims him. Such instances cannot 
be otherwise than few. A widow, under ordinary circumstances, has by law 
another husband as soon as the first dies; and a widower deprived only of one 
wife may have already too many — ^perhaps three, or the deprivation may allow 
of his taking another — and he may rejoice instead of giving way to grief. 

All arrangements connected with marriage cause trouble in the tribes. 
Even before a child is born a promise may be given that if it be a girl it shall 
be the wife of some warrior ; and nearly all the girls are betrothed at a very 
early age. And any young warrior who casts kind looks towards a dark 
beauty, or any young woman who fevorably regards a painted youth as he 
returns from an expedition, is sure to give rise to jealous suspicions. 

Women are regarded almost as so much property which may be exchanged 
for better goods, or given away as friendly presents, or abandoned when not 
wanted. A child may be betrothed to a man, and that man may die, but his 


heir sncceeds^ and the girl goes with the other possessions of the deceased. 
Contrary to received opinions, it is shown in this work that the children of the 
native women are often numerous, some having as many as thirteen, and twins 
are not rare. It is also proved that the Australians are really human beings, 
and not creatures of another species, as so many have represented them in their 
works. Numerous cases are mentioned which fairly dispose of the theory so 
long maintained that they are — ^regarding man merely as an animal-— diiBferent 
from Europeans. 

The customs of the natives of Australia are so like, in many respects, those 
of other existing savage or barbarous races and those of the people of ancient 
times, that one feels more and more the necessity of a classification, in which 
would appear every known custom and the place where it is practised, exactly 
after the manner that the geologist elaborates his system of the classification of 

In Australia, the mother-in-law may not look upon her son-in-law, and 
the son-in-law hides himself if his path be crossed by his mother-in-law. The 
Kaffir places his shield before his eyes and shuns the mother of his wife, and 
the same strange fear of meeting or seeing a mother-in-law has been observed 
in South America and amongst savages in other parts of the globe. What may 
have given rise to this rule can only be guessed, but that it is recognised and 
obeyed under circumstances which must necessarily prove most embarrassing 
is beyond doubt. 

Marriages between black men and white women are, as may be supposed, 
not common. Invaders invariably regard the women of the country invaded 
more or less favorably, and they are chosen as wives or concubines ; but the 
men who lose their country lose also their infiuence, and it is not often that 
they can obtain wives from the stronger race. But sometimes, under favorable 
conditions, an Australian black marries a white woman. Nothing is known to 
the writer of the results of such unions. 

The restrictions on marriage, as they exist in Australia, certainly invite 
enquiry; and a complete knowledge of these, and the exact meaning of such 
native words as are usually but not accurately translated as mother, father, 
sister, brother, step-mother, step-father, aunt, uncle, &c., would be of the highest 
value, and enable the ethnologist to unravel many intricate and complex lines 
in relationships amongst savages. A man knows that his mother's sister is not 
his mother, and that his father's brother is not his father; the exact relationship 
is known to him; and it is highly probable that, in addition to the nomenclature 
which points to a time when the intercourse between the sexes was different 
from what it is now, there are also terms which express correctly the relation- 
ship that exists. If such terms do not exist, it is plain that the growth of the 
language has not kept pace with the requirements of their condition as it 
advanced from a lower to a higher state. It is not disputed that the terms as 
translated very nearly express the meanings commonly assigned to them, nor 
that the enquiries into this branch of ethnology are of the greatest importance, 
nor is it doubted that the results will ultimately far more than repay the labors 
that have been bestowed on such investigations; but when a son tells you that 



he ^'calls'' his father's brother '^father/' he asserts merely that he follows a 
custom; and the system which gave rise to the cnstom being no longer in 
existence, it may surely be supposed that he could indicate distinctions and 
£nd words to express his meaning. It is highly desirable to ascertain the 
ideas that are in the mind of the savage as well as the words in common use 
when he speaks of his aunt, his uncle, or his cousin. The facts, as regards the 
nomenclature in Australia, disclose, according to the Bev. Lorimer Fison, the 
characteristic peculiarities of the Tamilian system, which would support the 
theory of the migration southward of the progenitors of the native race that 
occupies Australia, if we did not find the same system amongst the Indians of 
North America. The theory of migration rests on other grounds; and the like- 
ness in the nomenclature as applied to people akin only shows how from the 
communal marriage system have arisen gradually other systems under which 
in-and-in marriages were, if not interdicted, made less numerous, and those 
between brother and sister absolutely prohibited. The enquiries instituted by 
the Rev. L. Fison, the Bev. W. Ridley, and others, and the careful sunoonary of 
the facts collected by them which is contained in Mr. Lewis Morgan's works, 
show clearly how the tribes are governed in intermarriage by a kind of sexual 
classification. But all the facts are not known. The statements made in his 
letter to me by Mr. Bridgman, of Queensland, and the peculiar arrangement 
under one and the same division, as ascertained by Mr. Stewart, of Mount 
Gambier, of things animate and inanimate, show that much is yet to be learnt 
respecting the principles which guide the natives in placing in classes all that 
comes within their knowledge. The two classes of the tribes near Mackay 
in Queensland are Youngaroo and WootaroOj and these are again subdivided, 
and marriages are regulated in accordance therewith. But the blacks say 
alligators are Toungaroo and kangaroos are Wootaroo, and that the sun is 
Youngaroo and the moon is Wootaroo. Strange to say, this, or something as 
nearly like this as possible, is found at Mount Gambier. There the pelican, 
the dog, the blackwood-tree, and fire and frost are Boort-parangal, and belong 
to the division Kumite~gcr {gor = female) ; and tea-tree scrub, the duck, the 
wallaby, the owl, and the cray-fish are Boort-roeriOy and belong to the division 
Krokee. A Kumite may many any Krokee-gor^ and a Krokee may marry a 
Kumite^cr, And Mr. Stewart says a man will not, unless under severe 
pressure, kill or use as food any of the animals of the division in which he 
is placed. A Kumite is deeply grieved when hunger compels him to eat 
anything that bears his name, but he may satisfy his hunger with anything 
that is Krokee. These divisions and subdivisions have an important influence 
in all arrangements between natives, not only as regards marriage, but also 
in revenging injuries, in imputing witchcraft, and in the fights that so con- 
stantly occur. 

The funeral ceremonies of the natives of Australia are perhaps in some 
respects unlike those of the savages of other parts of the world, but the modes 
of disposing of the bodies of the dead are similar. The conmion practice is to 
inter the coipse; but some are placed in the hollows of trees, some in the beds 
of running streams, some in caves, some on artificial platforms made of 


branches of trees^ some in trenches lined and covered with flat stones^ and some 
are burnt. 

When death is imminent, it is usual to remove the dying man to a spot at 
some little distance from his miam, and his relatives and friends prepare all 
that is needful for his interment even before dissolution. Much attention is 
shown to him, and when finally he breathes his last breath, arrangements are 
made for the disposal of the body. The facts which are given in this volume 
show that savages are not indrfiferent to the solemn events which amongst 
civilized peoples give occasion for pageantry. The natives are serious and 
decorous around the graves of their warriors; and the mourners cut themselves 
and lament after the manner of the ancients. 

The body is not placed at Ml length in the grave. The grave is usually 
four or five feet in length; and the corpse is bent and doubled so as to admit of 
its being laid in a small space. A warrior is usually wrapped in his opossum 
rug, tied tightly, and buried with his weapons and all his worldly possessions. 
Amongst the southern tribes of Victoria the body was not touched by hands. 
It was so moved and carried as to prevent the contact of the living with the 
corpse, and the utmost care was taken in interring it to protect every part of it 
with a covering. Amongst the people of the west and elsewhere no such feeling 
seems to have prevailed; the body was sewn up, it was greased and rubbed 
with red-ochre, and handled apparently without repugnance. 

Sometimes a long speech is delivered over the grave by some man of con- 
sideration in the tribe. Mr. Bridgman, of Mackay in Queensland, states in a 
letter to me that on one occasion he heard a funeral oration delivered over the 
grave of a man who had been a great warrior which lasted more than an hour. 
The corpse was borne on the shoulders of two men, who stood at the edge of the 
grave. During the discourse he observed that the orator spoke to the deceased 
as if he were still living and could hear his words. Burial in the district in 
which Mr. Bridgman lives is only a formal ceremony, and not an absolute 
disposal of the remains. After lying in the ground for three months or more, 
the body is disinterred, the bones are cleaned, and packed in a roll of pliable 
bark, the outside of which is painted and ornamented with strings of beads and 
the like. This, which is called Ngohera^ is kept in the camp with the living. 
If a stranger who has known the deceased comes to the camp, the Ngobera is 
brought out towards evening, and he and some of the near relations of the dead 
person sit down by it, and wail and cut themselves for half an hour. Then it is 
handed to the stranger, who takes it with l^im and sleeps by the side of it, 
returning it in the morning to its proper custodian. Women and children who 
die, Mr. Bridgman says, are usually burnt. 

It is the firm belief of the natives that no man dies but by witchcraft. Some 
sorcerer in a neighbouring tribe has compassed his death, they say, and they 
seek to discover in what direction their warriors shall go to avenge the murder. 
Usually they scrape up the earth around the dead body in order to find the 
track of some worm or insect, sometimes they watch the movements of a lizard, 
and again they will wait until cracks appear in the damp clay that covers the 
grave. Sooner or later the wise man of the tribe determines in what direction 


the warriors must travel to find the sorcerer, and they go at once, and kill one 
or more, in expiation of the crime which has caused the death of their friend. 
It is curious to note the general similarity in the modes adopted by the cunning 
men to cause injury to neighbouring tribes when a death occurs, and also the 
differences in the modes. For instance, the Western Port tribe in Victoria, and 
the tribes near Perth in Western Australia, watch the movements of a living 
insect that may accidentally be turned up in digging the earth ; the Melbourne 
tribe look for the track of a worm or the like ; the Tarra blacks watch the 
direction which a lizard takes ; at C!ooper's Creek the corpse is questioned ; the 
tribes at the mouth of the Murray and at Encounter Bay rely on the dreams 
of a wise man who sleeps with his head on the corpse ; and on one part of the 
Murray they watch the drying of the damp clay that covers the grave, and see 
in the line of the principal fissure where they are to look for the wicked sorcerer 
who has done to death, by his charms, their late companion. 

The natives believe that the spirits or ghosts of the dead remain for at least 
a little time near the spots that they loved when living, and it is to satisfy and 
appease the shades and ghosts that, when a warrior dies, they murder some 
of the people of a neighbouring tribe. K blood were not shed, the ghost of 
the departed would haunt them, and perhaps injure them. They believe that 
the ghosts depart and find rest in regions either towards the setting sun, or in 
the east, where he rises. Stanbridge says that the heaven of the Murray people 
is towards the setting sun ; Wilhelmi says that the head of the corpse was 
placed at the west end of the grave, because the people of Port Lincoln believe 
that the departed spirits reside in an island situated eastward ; Oxley found on 
the Darling a body laid with the head to the eastward ; and Grey says that 
the face in West Australia is turned towards the east. The Goulburn blacks 
placed a fighting-stick at the east end of the grave. Buckley states that in his 
first wanderings he found a spear sticking in the centre of a mound of earth. 
It was the grave of one recently interred. He carried away the spear, and when 
the natives found him and saw the spear of their dead friend, they called him 
Murran^gurk — ^which was the name of the dead man. They believed that he 
had come to life again, and that he had taken the form of Buckley. 

All the methods employed by the Australian savages in disposing of their 
dead are curious and full of interest. Though they have no such monuments 
as that erected by Artemisia in Caria, they have advanced beyond the state in 
which it is lawful for a sister to marry a brother ; and they have sought to 
express by many ingenious devices their respect and affection for their deceased 
relatives and friends. On the swampy reed beds of the Aire River, in the Cape 
Otway district, are found even now the remains of the rude platforms on which 
the natives placed their dead ; in the mirm-yong heaps of the western plains 
are found interred the bones of departed warriors ; and under the umbrageous 
pines of the north-west are seen here and there the mounds which they had 
raised over the relics that perhaps had been carried with them, and mourned 
over for many a day. These are respected by the old people, and they grow 
sorrowful as they approach them. Though the natives generally buried the 
body very near the spot where the death occurred, they had in some parts 


appointed burial-grounds, where the surface was cleared of grass, and cut in the 
form of a spear-shield. Some seen by the first explorers occupied a considerable 
space, and were intersected by neatly-made walks, running in graceful curves ; 
others consisted of well-constructed huts, thatched and secured with a net ; and 
a few buried their dead in graves not unlike those in a modern cemetery. 

The bodies of young children and persons killed by accident were usually 
placed in a hollow tree. The space was cleared of rotten wood and well swept, 
the bottom was lined with leaves, and the whole was covered with a piece of 
bark. And sometimes a rude coffin was made by stripping a sapling of its 

The manner in which bodies were burnt is fully described in this work. It 
will be observed that the pile is lighted, not by a priest, but by one of the 

The Narrinyeri dry the bodies of the dead, and during the process they 
paint them with grease and red-ochre. They preserve the hair, which is spun 
into a cord, and the cord is wound round the head of some fighting-man. It 
gives him, they say, clearness of sight and renders him more active. 

When the body is dry, it is wrapped in rugs or mats, and carried from place 
to place for several months, and is then placed on a platform of sticks. The 
skull, it is said, is used as a drinking vessel. 

The natives in some parts of Queensland, when they bum the bodies, keep 
and carry about with them the ashes of their dead. 

There is evidently a strong belief generally in the virtues communicated by 
rubbing the body with the fat of a dead man, or with portions of his singed 
beard, or by eating pieces of his fat or skin. It is thought that his strength 
and courage will be acquired by those who perform these ceremonies. 

The blacks exhibit the greatest sorrow when one of their number is sick and 
near death. It is impossible for any one to stand by and see a native breathe 
his last without feeling the deepest compassion for those who surround the death 
bed. Both men and women exhibit acute anguish ; they mourn the departed, 
and with such gestures and accents as betray the misery that is in their hearts. 
Some tear the flesh from the fingers until blood comes, others cut their cheeks 
with shells and chips, and many burn themselves with fire-sticks, all the while 
scattering hot ashes on their heads and on their bodies until the mutilations 
are dreadful to behold. And the grief of the friends of the departed is naturally 
increased whon they know that his death was not due to natural causes, but to 
the vile arts of some sorcerer dwelling amongst wild blackfellows. 

A sudden death is often the cause of fighting amongst men of the bereaved 
tribe. They will exhibit their grief by spearing each other ; and men have been 
killed at such times. One case of this kind occurred on the River Darling. A 
man died suddenly of heart disease, and the men commenced to quarrel over his 
grave. The cause of the quarrel was not ascertained, but the results were fatal. 
One young man was killed, and he was buried in the very grave around which 
all had assembled for the purpose of paying respect to their dead relative. 

The Murray blacks, Mr. Bulmer informs me, never keep the dead long. They 
are generally buried on the day of their death, or, at latest, the next day. In 


this respect the Gippsland blacks differ from the people of the Murray. They 
will keep a body eight or ten days, or even longer. They will keep it until all 
their friends can be got together, so that the last duties may be performed with 
some pomp and ceremony. The Gippsland blacks differ from the Murray blacks 
in another matter. The blacks of the Murray never keep anything belonging 
to the dead — always burying the property of the dead man in the grave which 
they have dug for his body ; the Gippsland people keep the relics of the de- 
parted. They will cut off the hands to keep as a remembrance, and these they 
will attach to the string that is tied round the neck. It is said also that they 
will sometimes keep the head ; but this custom is not common. 

When mourning for the dead, the women plaster their bodies and the men 
smear their faces with pipeclay. White is not always used. Black, and in 
some places red, indicate mourning. Ordinarily, a woman laments the death of 
her husband, and uses the clay appropriate to her condition for about six 
months ; after the lapse of that time she may marry again. A widow on the 
Murray is called MainF^nnyarpumo^ and in Gippsland, WoTV-a-lak. 

On the Lower Murray and elsewhere the widows plaster their heads with a 
white paste made of powdered gypsum ; and the white caps seen by Mitchell 
were discarded emblems of mourning. 

When any one dies, his miam or wurley is pulled down, and the materials 
are often burnt. No one will inhabit a place where a death has occurred. 

I have mentioned, in the chapter devoted to a description of the modes of 
burial conmion amongst the Australians, some few instances wherein their 
practices agree with those of other savages, but many more might be given ; 
and here — as in their language, their modes of ornamenting their weapons, the 
treatment of their infants, their marriage customs, and their myths — there is so 
much which is undoubtedly truly indigenous, and arising wholly out of their 
condition and the physical forces by which they are moved, that is yet like what 
is seen in other parts of the world, that one has cause to regret again and again 
that no one has, up to the present time, placed the &cts in order, and set down 
after a system and under proper heads all that is known of savages — ^in what 
respects they agree, in what they differ, and to what extent they resemble in 
their customs the people amongst whom civilization was bom and nurtured, 
and to whom we owe the advancement which modem society so proudly regards 
as the results of its own efforts. Such a work— «and it would not necessarily be 
at first a very large one — would do much to help towards a better under- 
standing of man's actual duties and responsibilities ; and let us hope it will 
be undertaken by some one who has the ability to construct a system and to 
use the details in subordination to it. 

The encampments of the natives, and indeed all their movements, are ordered 
by the old men. They do not wander about aimlessly : there is order and 
method in what they do ; and when several tribes meet, the sites for the miams 
are selected in accordance with ndes, the arrangement generally being such as 
to show exactly from what direction each tribe has come. 

In some parts of the continent their dwellings are large and well built ; 
stout poles are used in their construction, and they are thatched with grass. 


The people are governed by the heads of families, who settle quarrels and 
preserve order. The unmarried men have a place set apart for them, and they 
are not permitted to associate with the females. 

They receive messengers and visitors at their encampments ; and plenty of 
employment is found for all in hunting or fishing, or gathering roots and seeds, 
in cooking, in eating, and in fighting. They have many amusements — ^and a 
corrobboree is to them what a great ball is to the whites in a European city. 
The dancers have to paint themselves, and the women have to be in readiness 
to sing and to beat time. There are endless sources of enjoyment when a large 
meeting takes place ; but on the whole the life of a savage is one of trouble. 
He is either very hungry or has eaten too much. He is often very cold, or 
suffering from the heat. He is never sure of his life. He may be speared 
by an enemy lurking in the bush — the Nerum may be in the hands of a foe 
at night ; a sorcerer may have taken some of his hair, or a distant doctor may 
be arranging measures for securing his kidney-fat — and there are noises at 
night that terrify him. His wives, too, give him trouble, and his children need 

He is, however, often a cheerful, merry feUow, willing to be amused, and 
finding amusement in childish entertainments. 

I have given an account of his mode of life during the four seasons, of his 
methods of climbing trees, his manner of signalling by the smoke of fires ; his 
fights, his dances, and of other matters that are of importance to him in his life 
in the forest ; but his history is yet to be written. I am compelled by circum- 
stances to present fragments only of a work that was intended to include all 
that relates to the habits of the natives. 

The section of this work which treats of the several kinds of food upon which 
the natives had to depend for subsistence before the country was occupied by 
the whites has been prepared with great care. Many correspondents have 
rendered much assistance ; and the facts that have been gathered together will 
be useful to settlers in all parts of Australia, and will, it is hoped, also prove 
interesting to the naturalist. 

An attempt has been made to give as complete an account as possible of all 
the animals and plants that are eaten by the blacks ; and there are now put in 
a small compass, in addition to what is new, many facts that the reader could 
not find without a laborious search, scattered as they are through books of 
travels, pamphlets, and scientific papers — some of which are now rare. 

It was at first intended to restrict the descriptions to the products of Vio- 
toria ; but as the southernmost part of Australia is deficient in many vegetables 
in the treatment of which the natives display remarkable skill, and as they 
practise in other parts of the continent methods of capturing animals that are 
here altogether unknown, it was decided to enlarge the section. Indeed it would 
have been unjust to the natives not to have mentioned some of the facts referred 
to by Grey, by the Jardines, by Thozet, and others. The extraordinary perse- 
verance and skill exhibited by the blacks in hunting and fishing, their ready 
adaptation of the simplest means to accomplish any given purpose, and their 
power to combine when they find it necessary to construct such a work of art 


as that described by Mr. Gideon S. Lang, most sorely result in a change in the 
opinion that is generally entertained of their character and mental faculties. 

In hunting the kangaroo the native employs various methods. He tracks 
him day after day and night after night until he secures him, or, hidden by an 
artificial screen of boughs, he spears him as he comes to drink at a water-hole ; 
or he digs a pit for him, or catches him with other animals by setting fire to the 
bush in various places until the scared creatures are surrounded by a circle of 
flames, when they are easily speared or knocked on the head with a club. 

Fastening the skin and feathers of a hawk to the end of a long stick, and 
uttering the cry of the hawk, he startles the wallaby, which at once takes refuge 
in the nearest bush, and is there speared. By the appearance of a hair or two, 
or a few grains of sand, or the faint scratch of a claw, on the bark of a tree, he 
knows whether or not the opossum is in his hole, and, if there, he rapidly climbs 
the tree and catches him. He works harder than a navvy when he is employed 
in digging out the wombat. In netting and noosing ducks, in swimming to a 
flock, either under water, breathing through a reed, or with his head covered 
with aquatic plants, he displays as much cimning as a North American Indian. 
Holding a few boughs in front of him, and carrying a long stick with a butter- 
fly and a noose at the end, he walks up to a turkey and snares him. 

The native makes a bower, and, using one bird as a decoy, he snares numbers 
of small birds during the course of a day. Holding a piece of fish in his hand, 
and lying as if asleep, he entices the hawk or the crow, and by a quick move- 
ment catches it. One black will approach a tree, on a limb of which a bird is 
sitting, and by singing and by strange motions of his hands and contortions of 
his body (always keeping his eyes fixed on the bird) so completely engage its 
attention that another black will be able to ascend the tree and knock the bird 
down with a stick. 

He is active in the water. He will attack the green-turtle in the sea, and, 
avoiding the sharp edges of the shell, turn it on its back and drag it to his 
canoe. Like the people of the coasts of China and the Mozambique, he uses 
the fisher-fish — the Echeneis — in taking the hawk's-bill turtle, thus verifying 
the observation of Columbus. He catches and cooks poisonous snakes as well 
as the harmless firog. He has at least five difierent modes of procuring fish ; 
and his hooks and nets are better than could be made by any European who did 
not practise the making of hooks and nets as a trade. His fishing-lines, made 
of any raw material within his reach, are strong and good and lasting. 

He goes out in his canoe in the night and uses torches to attract the fish, 
exactly after the manner of the poachers of the North Tyne in England, 
who in their trows^ and with lights burning and provided with leisters or 
spears, robbed that river of its salmon.* He uses the bident in the shallow 
weedy waters of the Murray, and follows the fish by the same signs as those 
that guided the ancient Egyptian when he pushed his papyrus punt through 
the broad leaves of the lotus in the lagoons and ponds that were filled by the 
waters of the Nile. 

* Ramble* on the Border, 1836. 


He builds, in the great rivers, weirs having crooked but continnous passages, 
and so contrived as to enable him to take the fish by hand. He kills seals, and 
catches the dugong ; and when the whalers visited the southern shores of the 
continent, he was cunning enough to make signals so as to set many boats in 
pursuit of any whale that came near the shore, thus rendering the chances of its 
being stranded almost certain. 

He followed the bee to its nest and took its honey, and found a plan of free- 
ing the pupsB of ants from sand and dust so as to make of them a palatable 
meal. The grubs that are found in the wattle, the honeysuckle, and the gum, 
the worms that crawl in the earth, and the moths that crowd the granitic rocks 
of the mountains — each in turn were made to contribute to his support. 

His vegetable food was various. The natives of Victoria had to depend 
mostly on the yam, quandang, currant, raspberry, cherry, the fruits of the 
mesembryanthemum, the seed of the flax, the sow-thistle, the roots of the flag, 
water-grass, geranium, and male fern, the pith of the dwarf fern-tree, the native 
truffle, the leaves of the clover sorrel, the gums of the wattle, Ac. He gathered 
manna, and made sweet drinks of the flowers of the honeysuckle. In the north- 
western parts of Victoria, he gathered the seeds of the nardoo, and other seeds, 
and pounded them, and ate the flour either in the form of paste or cakes. 

The kumpung, a bulrush almost identical with one found in Switzerland — a 
species of typka — ^is eaten during the summer either raw or roasted, and the 
fibres are used for making twine. In other parts of Australia there are the 
nuts of palms and the fruit of the Bunya^nya; and in the more northern 
districts of the continent, many nuts, seeds, piths, and roots, some of which, 
though poisonous when gathered, are so treated as to yield excellent fecula and 

The natives, belying the low opinion that has been formed of their intellects, 
show in many ways that they were not without foresight. They could see the 
necessity for making provision for the friture. It has been shown that they could 
construct permanent works of art. Grey tells us how he came upon a store of 
hy-yu nuts (fruits of the zami<i) in West Australia ; and Coxen relates the 
methods the natives employ in preparing and securing in bags, grass seeds, 
gums, and other food, in the north-eastern parts of the continent. It was their 
custom to burn off the old grass and leaves and fallen branches in the forest, so 
as to allow of a free growth of young grass for the mammals that feed on grass ; 
they protected the young of animals in some parts so as to secure a natural 
increase; and if they did not actually resort to cultivation (in the ordinary 
sense), they were at least careful to see that harm was not done to vegetables 
that yielded food. 

That there was a common property in at least some things, is beyond doubt. 
Many tribes, in other respects having nothing in common, resorted to the Bunyctn 
iunya forest when the fruit was ripe ; and the raspberry grounds mentioned 
by Gideon Lang were also freely given up to neighbouring tribes when the food 
they yielded was abundant. When a whale was stranded, notice was given, by 
sending up columns of smoke, that a feast was ready, and hundreds of natives 
— by right — ^assembled to share in the bounty of the seas. 



They respected each other's rights. The person who first strack a kangaroo 
— ^whether boy or man, and whether the animal was killed or not by the stroke — 
was held to have captured him, and, when taken, the animal was his property. 
And then he had to divide the kangaroo into portions if any of those with whom 
he had covenanted, as regards kangaroo flesh, were present ; and the division 
was always fairly made. 

The account given by Thozet of the plants eaten by the natives of North- 
Eastem Australia is full of interest for the naturalist ; and Mr. Gason's lists of 
the animals and plants which afford food to the natives of Cooper's Creek, 
though not likely to raise this people in the estimation of Europeans, contain- 
ing as they do the names of many creatures which are abhorred in civilized 
communities, are still curious, and certainly worthy of attention. 

Victoria, like other parts of Australia, presents diverse physical features ; 
in one area the larger animals are numerous, in others rare. In some parts the 
natives had to depend for their means of subsistence mainly on fish ; in other 
parts mainly on the kangaroo; in well-timbered tracts opossums were nur 
merous, and on the plains they caught the emu, the turkey, and the native 
companion. In and on the margins of the forests they took the bear, and in 
the volcanic tracts wombats multiplied. Many of these animals, the larger 
weighing as much as 150 lbs., were not very difficult to capture ; and the black, 
with his family, lived in comfort as long as the fiesh of these was procurable. 

It is not at all probable that the natives penetrated the tracts covered with 
scrubs or thick timber. The dense forests of South-Westem Oippsland and 
Cape Otway were not often entered, if at all ; and the blacks who fished on the 
shores at the mouth of the Parker had probably no communication with their 
near neighbours, the natives of the Gellibrand; and it is almost certain that the 
Cape Otway blacks never travelled through the forest to Colac. The road is 
now open and easily trodden ; but before the advent of the whites, before the 
scrub was cut and the huge trees hewn, before it was known what was beyond 
the coast, it was a tract having an aspect that would naturally deter the native 
from encroaching on it, even if his duty, directed by superstitition, required that 
he should traverse it. 

There is nothing in the records relating to Victoria respecting the use of 
any earth for the purpose of appeasing hunger ; but Grey mentions that one 
kind of earth, pounded and mixed with the root of the Mene (a species of Hcsmon 
dorum) is eaten by the natives of West Australia. 

The only plants that are known to be used as narcotics are pitcherie, small 
dry twigs, which the natives chew ; and the leaves of a species of Euffenia^ which 
the people of the north-east smoke when they cannot get tobacco. 

Excepting the abstinence from food, which perhaps was conmion during the 
period of initiating youths to the privileges of manhood, it is aknost certain that 
voluntary fasting was unknown to the natives of Australia. The priests and 
sorcerers appear to have been able to exercise their arts without having recourse 
to any such painfol ordeals. On the contrary, they reserved for themselves 
the best of the food, the wild-fowl, and the sweetest and most tender parts of 
the larger animals ; and, on account of the influence they possessed, they were 


able to prevent the young and strong men from enjoying the firuits of their own 
exertions. Unlike the Oherokees^ the Flatheads of Oregon, and the medicine- 
men of the Bio de la Plata, they dreamed their dreams after fully satisfying 
their appetites, and no doubt would have regarded a suggestion to refrain for 
even a short time from eating and drinking as an impertinence to be resented 
by the use of the strongest "charms" iq their possession. 

As much information as could be obtained is given relative to forbidden 
food. The laws administered by the old men were numerous. Women might 
not eat of the flesh of certain animals, and certain kinds of food were prohibited 
to young men. These customs — ^the origin of which is unknown, and the 
reasons for following them not to be discovered — are, however, not confined to 
the savages of Australia. They are known in Africa ; but the old men of the 
tribes in Australia seem to have enlarged, for their own advantage, a system 
that probably originally grew out of the superstitition that evil would befall 
him who should eat the flesh of the animal that is the totem of his tribe. The 
most obvious effect of the operation of these curious laws was certainly not 
injurious to the interests of the people. It enabled the old men who were not 
equal to the fatigues incident to the hunting of the larger game to remain in 
comfort in their camps, where they employed their time in aU those arts which 
they had perfected by experience. They made nets, spears, shields, and boome- 
rangs ; and taught the boys the use of weapons and implements. They maia- 
tained order when the warriors were absent, and they took care to require that 
all the observances proper to the occasion of the arrival of a messenger or a 
visitor were duly maintained. 

If, on the other hand, the old men had had to depend on their own unas- 
sisted exertions for a supply of animal food, they would have had no leisure for 
such pursuits ; the character of the weapons and tools would have deteriorated^ 
and the knowledge of some arts would have been lost. 

The custom of youths arranging, and maintaining through life, a kind of 
joint ownership in certain sorts of food, so that, for instance, when a kangaroo 
was killed, each, according to right, would receive a particular portion, is, it is 
believed, peculiar to the Australian people. How it originated, or for what pur- 
pose it was continued, wUl probably never be known. Indeed the natives can 
give no information respecting their customs and laws. 

Their aversion to the fat of swine is well known, and it can scarcely have 
arisen from the circumstance that swine are unclean feeders, and liable to cer- 
tain disorders. It rests probably on the influence exercised over their minds by 
the strange superstitions that seem inseparable from the savage state. Their 
refusal to eat pork is perhaps due to the fear that they might in doing so violate 
a law. It is not lawM for a young man to eat the fat of the emu until a certain 
ceremony has been performed ; and when they see the fat of an animal strange 
to them, it may be supposed that they view it with doubt and fear. 

The laws relating to food made by the natives stand in curious contrast to 
those mentioned in Deuteronomy (chap. xiv.). The blacks interdict to women 
and young men such of the food as they consider good ; and there are no prohi- 
bitions against eating creatures that are generally regarded by civilized races 


as unfit for food. And yet the &ct that there are such laws amongst the 
Australian people and other savage peoples gives a glimpse into the history 
of the past which is of singular interest. 

The natives inhabiting the searcoast and the banks of the larger rivers had 
often to depend for subsistence on shell-fish, and consequently both on the coast 
and inland there are large heaps of shells, mixed in some places with the bones 
of animals, and concealing stone tomahawks and bone-awls. The large heaps 
on the banks of the Murray and the Darling are composed of the shells of the 
freshwater unio. In lat. 29'' 43' 3" S., Sir Thomas Mitchell found on the banks 
of the Gwydir numerous fires of the natives and heaps of mussel-shells, mixed 
with the bones of the pelican and the kangaroo ; and the like occur in various 
other parts of the area drained by the Murray and its affluents. 

On the coast of Victoria there appear in various parts, what at first sight 
one would suppose to be raised beaches, and if only a slight examination be 
made of these, their true character is not discovered. But instead of lying in 
regular and connected layers, they occur in heaps, beyond high-water mark, and 
they are always opposite to rocks laid bare at low water. Moreover, they are 
found to consist mainly of one kind of shell — ^namely, the mussel {Mytilus Dun- 
keri)y with a small proportion of the mutton-fish {Hafiotis nivosa)^ the limpet 
{Pattella tramoserica)^ the periwinkle {Lunella undulata)j and the cockle (Cor- 
dium tenuicostatum). These accumulations resemble in many respects the 
^^kjok-ken-moddings" of Denmark. With the shells are stones bearing dis- 
tinctly the appearance of having been subjected to the action of fire, and there 
are also numerous pieces of charcoal imbedded in the mounds. They are visible 
all along the coast where it is low, but never in any other position than that 
described ; and when opened up are seen to be formed of heaps not regularly 
superimposed one on the other. Those that have been frequented most recently 
exhibit clearly the mode of accumulation, and one can trace the old heaps up- 
wards to the last, whiob is generally found on the highest part of the mound. 
The area covered by some of the largest of the mounds exceeds an acre in 
extent ; and the shape of the heaps of shells composing them, which are sepa* 
rated by layers of sand, indicates their origin. The enormous period of time 
during which the natives have assembled on the shores to gather and cook the 
shell-fish accounts for the great number and extent of the mounds. 

The mirm-yong heaps in the inland parts of Victoria, composed of earth, 
charcoal ashes, and the bones of animals — ^the cookiag places of the tribes — are 
also large and numerous. 

On the wide open plains, where there is little or no timber, the natives set 
up stones, principally it is believed for shelter ; but they would be used too, in 
all probability, when it became necessary to conceal from the women their 
manner of performing certain ceremonies. In what light we are to regard the 
regularly-built stone monuments which Sir George Grey discovered in North- 
West Australia is a matter for speculation. His descriptions and drawings 
would lead one to suppose that, if they were the work of the natives, they had 
borrowed something from the Malays, who it is known have long had inter- 
course with the Aborigines of that part of Australia. 


The methods of cooking the animals they caught do not tend to raise the 
character of the natives. Neither as regards fish^ flesh, or fowl were they as 
careful as they might have been, nor as clean. They were indeed, to 
speak the truth, dirty in their habits. They ate portions of animals that 
well-bred people universally reject; and they cooked some that Europeans 
would eat raw, and ate raw very many that would be palatable only when 
well cooked. Like the Eomans, they were fond of moths {zeuzerd) ; but 
they consumed also earth-worms and other small creatures whose names are 
not usually mentioned. Their ovens for cooking large animals, or a number 
of small animals, were formed of stones. The stones were heated and placed 
in a hole in the ground, grass was thrown on them, and the animal to be 
cooked was laid on the grass, and covered with grass, and other stones 
heated in the fire were piled on the top. The whole was covered with earth 
and left until the process was complete. Sometimes they made holes in the 
oven with sticks and poured in water so as to steam or parboil the animal, 
but in general it was left to the operation of the heated stones. A bird 
was sometimes covered with clay and broiled in the embers of the fire, and 
this method, if certain precautions be taken, is excellent, and the gourmet 
would delight in the result. 

Sir George Grey describes also a manner of cooking fish and the flesh 
of the kangaroo which he thinks is worthy of being adopted by the most 
civilized nations. It is called Yudam dukoon^ and the fish and other meats so 
cooked are said to be, and indeed must be, delicious. 

Other writers have a high opinion of some of the native methods of cookiDg. 
The natives of the Macleay River, it is said, always clean and gut their fish, 
and cook them carefully on hot embers. 

They are not able to boil anything. They have no pottery, and they have 
not even attempted to form any vessels that could be placed on the fire, which 
they might have done by covering their closely-woven baskets with clay. 

Mr. lyior states, on the authority of Mr. T. Baines, that in North Australia 
the natives immerse heated stones id water, poured into holes in the ground, 
and boil fish, the tortoise, and the smaller alligators ; and that they may, 
therefore, in these times at least, be counted as ^^stone-boilers." With this 
practice the natives of the south were not acquainted, if recorded observations 
are to be trusted. 

In broiling or roasting or in stewing in ovens the native was not, accord- 
ing to our notions, a good cook, and not being a good cook, any advance in 
civilization was nearly impossible. The proper nourishment of the body is of 
more importance than many other things recommended as indispensable to the 
improvement of savage and other peoples. 

It cannot be denied that cannibalism prevailed at one time throughout the 
whole of Australia. The natives killed and ate little children, and the bodies of 
warriors slain in battle were eaten. They did not feast upon human fiesh, how- 
ever, like the natives of Fiji. They appear to have eaten portions of the bodies 
of the slain in obedience to customs arising out of their superstitions, and very 
rarely to have sacrificed a human life merely that they might cook and eat the 


flesh. This, however, was done under some circnmstances. When tribes 
assembled to eat the fruit of the Bunyor-bunya^ they were not permitted to take 
any game, and at length the craving for flesh was so intense that they were 
impelled to kill one of their nimiber in order that their appetites might be 

It is creditable to them that they are ashamed of the practice. They 
usually deny that they ever ate human flesh, but as constantly allege that 
'^wild blacks" are guilty of the crime. It is sad to relate that there are 
only too many well-authenticated instances of cannibalism ; and the &ct is 
apparent, too, that not seldom the natives destroyed the victim under circum- 
stances of peculiar atrocity. It was not always done that they might comply 
with a custom, or that by eating portions of a body they might thereby acquire 
the courage and strength of the deceased. They undoubtedly on some occasions 
indulged in the horrible practice because they rejoiced in the savage banquet. 

Unlike many other offences with which they are justly charged, but which 
because of their ignorance or because of the pressure of their necessities cannot 
be called crimes, this one in general they knew to be wrong. Their behaviour, 
when questioned on the subject, shows that they erred knowingly and wilfully. 
That they were not so bad as the men of Fiji and New Zealand is undoubtedly 
true, and so much perhaps may be said in their favor. 

The Rev. John Bulmer, the Bev. A. Hartmann, the Bev. F. A. Hagenauer, 
and Mr. John Green, furnished, at my request, some years ago, statements as 
made by the blacks relative to the habits of some of the native animals, and 
their accounts are on the whole accurate. The blacks do not like to be ques- 
tioned respecting matters in which they take no interest; they are also suspi- 
cious, and it is often impossible to obtain from them such information as they 
undoubtedly possess. The statements are, however, not without interest, 
though they are less valuable than might have been anticipated. 

The diseases to which the natives were subject prior to the arrival of the 
whites were ophthalmia, caused by the heat and the flies — and Dampier rightly 
called them ^^ the poor winking people of New Holland,'' when he saw them in 
the height of sunmier, on the north-west coast, maintaining an unequal fight 
with these pests; colds, owing to their careless mode of living and their habit 
of sleeping near a fire without a covering ; hydatids in the liver and lungs, due 
probably to the imperfect cooking of their food; and eczematous diseases, 
caused by their living, in some places, principally on fish, and generally by their 
want of cleanliness. The latter diseases are in some cases of a veiy severe 
character, and the depilous people of parts of the interior have probably suffered 
from them. The late Mr. Thomas says that dogs, cats, and opossums that were 
kept as pets by any people having the more severe forms of skin disease were 
also affected and lost their hair. 

The small-pox, supposed to have been introduced by the whites in 1788, was 
the cause of numerous deaths amongst the natives, and the pictures I have 
given in illustration of the ravages conmiitted by this scourge are painful to 
contemplate. The blacks could not bury their dead, the father was separated 
from his fiunily, and children fied from their parents. Tribes, it is believed. 


were so reduced in numbers that they sought compatiionship with others 
with whom they had formerly been at enmity, and dread and suffering were 
amongst them everywhere. 

There is a kind of sickness that affects the natives who live amongst the 
whites, or on the stations where they are required to labor, which appears to be 
peculiar to them. They mope, they sit stupidly over a fire, and at length the 
lungs or some other parts of the body are attacked, and they die. The Eight 
Reverend Dr. Rosendo Salvado and others have noticed this melancholy and the 
sickness that follows. It does not usually yield to treatment by European 
doctors. But medical officers find much difficulty in managing the blacks when 
they are sick. They are impatient of control; they follow the habits they have 
acquired amongst their own people, and even with the utmost care many die 
that, if they had followed advice and taken the medicines prescribed for them, 
would have lived. 

The native doctors are, I think, everywhere much trusted by the blacks. 
They like their modes of cure, and they believe in them. A man with failing 
sight will gladly subject himself to treatment by a native doctor, who, after 
some incantations and mummeries, will pretend to extract straws or pieces of 
wood from the eyes ; and after these things are done the patient is supposed 
to recover, unless some stronger magician in another tribe has interfered 
injuriously with the doctor's operations. Their vapour baths and their decoc- 
tions are more in accordance with our notions of treating diseases ; and these, 
we may suppose, did not arise out of their superstitions, but were the results of 

It will be observed that in some cases females are employed as doctors, and 
that their power to heal is believed in. 

The natives rapidly recover from wounds. Such injuries as would be fatal 
in the case of Europeans are accounted as nothing amongst the blacks. A 
spear through the body, a broken skuU, or ghastly wounds inflicted by the 
boomerang, are quickly cured. And they are very patient. A man pierced by 
a barbed spear will carry the barbs in his body until suppuration ensues and 
such a destruction of the tissues as to admit of the wood being pulled out. 

This is scarcely consistent with the theory of a low vitality. In his native 
state the black is probably as healthy and has a body in all its parts as capable 
of repairing injuries unassisted as the animals that live with him in the forests. 
Under circumstances different from those natural to him — in the artificial life 
which the whites have forced upon him — ^he is not always very strong nor very 
healthy. The process of selection which nature has employed in fitting him for 
the haunts he loves is one which renders him a ready victim to the diseases 
that are the results of the kind of civilization now existing; diseases which 
would be unknown were civilization based on natural laws, and not crippled by 
old superstitions nor held in bondage by vicious inventions. 

The dresses and personal ornaments of the natives of Australia, as may be 
supposed, are simple. The climate does not require any thick close clothing; 
and the habits of the people forbid the use of many personal decorations within 
their reach. The opossum doak, the strips of skin worn around the loins, and 


the sproo of enm feathera, are their dothing. AH dae that Hbej nae is put on 
nxher ffx onuunent than because it is neoesaaiy. Their doaka, their wptooB^ 
their nef:)d^ctBj their nose4x>ne8, the hanger-belt they tie round their bodies, 
the extr^vdinarf head-dress of feathers worn 1^ the natires of the north — 
resemhliDg the masks of the Ahts of Yancooyer^s Island, the Mtnmo of New 
Caledo&ia, and the drclets of feathers with which the men of Oniana deck 
their heads — and the manner in which they paint themsehres, are shown in the 
descriptions and fignres in this work.* 

The cloaks are made of the skins of the opossom. These skins they neatly 
aew together, using for thread the sinews of the tail of the kangaroa The rug 
is ornamented with rarious deyices, and whether the outside or the inside is 
presented, it is a work that every one likes to look at, because it is strong and 
durable and honestly made, and never in the lines drawn on it exhibiting the 
unpleasing forms that are invariably chosen by our own people when they 
attempt decoration. 

The apron of feathers used by maidens, and the skirt, kilt, or fillib^, made 
of strips of skin, with which the men clothe themselves, resemble in form the 
African nprcia of thongs, the grass dresses of Fiji and New Caledonia, and the 
feather aprons of tropical America. 

The fillet worn round the head reminds one of a similar ornament used by 
the people who dwelt on the banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris, of that of 
the Persians, of the band tied over the hair that the Greeks and Romans 
affected, and the modem feshion of tying the hair with a ribbon. 

lliey bored the septum of the nose, in this repeating the custom of the 
Sachet Indians of De Fnca's Straits and the pre-C!olumbian inhabitants of 
North America. 

llieir necklaces, simple as they are, have their representations now in the 
rich Mid costly adornments which the females of Europe delight in placing on 
their necks. 

The hunger-belt of the Australians is like that of the Moors of Africa and 
the Bed Indians of America. The specimens in my collection are beautifully 

Their practice of distinguishing by an artide of dress, such as the apron 
of emu feathers, the females who were not yet matrons, finds even now its 
equivalents in many modes of attire amongst civilized peoples ; and indeed it 
is difficult to name any of their customs that are not apparently the germs 
of varying phases of &8hion that exist at the present day, the origin of 
which, unless we seek it in the habits of savages, is hidden from us. The 
wearing of armlets and anklets, the ear-rings which no woman dislikes and 
many men are glad to exhibit, the tattooing that the sailor more especially 
rejoices in, and even the crown that sovereigns are compelled to assume, are all 

* The head-dress of featiien {Oogee), obtained by Mr. J. A. Fanton from North-Rastem 
AoBtralia, is somewhat like that described bj Jokes in the narratlTe of the Voyage of H.M.S. Ffy, 
When Tisiting Damley IsUmd or Brroob, Duppa^ a natiTe, appeared with a fillet crosslDg orer his 
bead from which proceeded a semicircle of large white feathers, randyked at the edges, and 
radiating round his head like a glory. 


derived from the simple decorations of savage peoples. This reflection may 
appear to some humiliating, but in truth it is ennobling. It shows that man 
advances, improves, and invents ; and such steps, though the dates of them 
cannot be recorded, as surely mark the stages of his progress as the discovery 
of the art of printing, the use of steam in locomotion, the application of 
electricity to the working of telegraphs, and the contrivances by which secrets 
are won from nature in analyses, in light-painting, and in the wonderful 
apparatus which enable us to pierce the further heavens and tell of their 

Nearly all their work is good and strong and lasting, and often much inge- 
nuity is shown in arranging the knitted work of their head-bands and sashes. 

It is not a custom of the natives to use flowers for the purpose of personal 
decoration, though it is said that girls when dancing have been seen so adorned* 
Neither do they make necklaces of shells like those of the natives of Tasmania ; 
but fragments of shells are sometimes fastened to the. pendant of the necklace 
of reeds. They do not pierce the ears. They tie bunches of leaves round the 
ankles or round the legs above the knee when performing in the corrobboree, 
and these make a strange noise as they move rapidly to and fro. It is believed 
that the people of New Guinea adopt the same method when they dress them- 
selves for their dances. 

The colors used by the natives for painting themselves are red, yeUow, 
white, and black, Blue is not used for painting the body, and indeed it is 
questionable whether that color was known to them prior to the advent of 
Europeans. The so-called blue that is seen in the cave paintings is probably 
a mixture of black and white. White paint is nearly always adopted for the 
corrobboree dance, and is also generally the color of mourning. The brighter 
colors have quite a metallic lustre when careftdly applied ; and on important 
occasions the men take great pains in painting their bodies. They apply white 
in streaks and daubs in such a manner as to appear at night by the light of the 
corrobboree fire like a crowd of skeletons. The natives travelled long distances 
to procure red-ochre and other paints ; and some tribes could get their favorite 
color only by barter. Whether because it was difficult to obtain, or because it 
was not generally approved of, it is certain that yellow-ochre was not as much 
used in the south as in the north. A great many weapons from the north are 
daubed with a yellow pigment; and I have not seen one so colored amongst 
those made by the natives of Victoria. 

The men and women did not always paint themselves in such manner as 
whim or fancy dictated. It appears that on occasions of mourning they 
adopted certain styles of coloring, according as they were near or distant 
relatives of the deceased ; and perhaps, even when they appeared in their most 
grotesque adornments, they acted as directed by custom or superstition, and 
presented to their tribe pictures which were understood by them. It is 
altogether a mistake to suppose that savages act as a rule on impulse, without 
guide, and without control. 

In ornamenting the skin they had to conform to rules. They raised 
cicatrices after a pattern common to the tribe. One form, at any rate, had to 



appear, whatever latitude might be pennitted in regard to others. None of the 
people of Australia practise the art of tattooing as it is known in the Tonga 
Islands, in Samoa, or in New Zealand. Their elevated scars are like the large 
punctures or ridges, some in straight and others in curved lines, which Capt. 
Cook observed on the bodies of the natives of Ta.smania, and which are seen 
also among the men of New Guinea, where are used red-ochre to paint the 
body, and a piece of bone in the septum of the nose. This method of 
ornamentation has no doubt been gradually improved by the brown race until 
it reached its highest development in the Marquesas. The women of Brumer 
Island ornament the skin with zigzag markings, but they are also frequently 
elaborately tattooed, and there, perhaps, may be found the art in a transition 
state. The figure of a native of Queensland, in this work, shows a very curious 
set of scars, and it is wonderful how he could have endured the pain of the 
operations necessary to this kind of embellishmetit. 

The natives of Australia embellish their weapons with incised lines, using 
the band, the herring-bone, the chevron, St. Andrew's cross, and detached 
circles. Many of these are so combined as to form geometrical patterns that 
have an excellent effect. They do not use coils or scrolls ; and there are rarely 
seen, except in their pictures, figures of animals or vegetables. It is true that 
they represent in rude lines forms of animals, such as the iguana, on their 
shields; but these, like the lines on the same weapons showing rivers and 
lakes — the boundaries of their lands — are intended to convey to others the 
name or place of their tribe. 

They roughly carve their weapons with the stone tomahawk and stone chisel, 
but the ornamentation is effected by a very neat tool, formed of one side of the 
tinder-jaw and tooth of the opossum. This, when fixed to a wooden handle, is 
a most useful cutting instrument. 

The patterns carved on the shields and clubs figured in this work have been 
faithfully copied. All the lines are repeated, and thus there are preserved 
lasting records of the native art of this people. I cannot discover, except as 
regards the devices on the shields, that there is any difference in the modes of 
ornamentation amongst the natives of Victoria. They used the same figures, 
but it is almost certain that particular forms were preferred to others in some 

Their shields, their clubs, their throwing-sticks, and their cloaks, are often 
profusely ornamented. In the south their spears are not ornamented, while in 
the north they are marked much after the pattern used by the natives of the 
South Sea Islands in embellishing their arrows. The natives of West Australia 
appear to have but one rather remarkable pattern for their shields, and they do 
not in any way ornament the throwing-stick. Some of their spears, however, 
are ornamented, the colors used being black and white. 

Implements made of bone are not, as far as I know, decorated in any way. 
Neither the ancient nor modem bone tools or ornaments in my possession are 
marked at all. 

The boomerang is not ornamented anywhere, I believe, except on the north- 
east coast and in the east. 


A remarkable form of shield is in use on the north-east coast. The style of 
ornamentation differs from all others on the continent, and there is a boss in 
the centre. The people who carve this weapon use colors, also, in combinations 
that are not generally seen elsewhere. 

The geometrical figures carved by the natives of Australia much resemble 
those of the Pijians. I have given some examples, and others might be given, 
showing almost line for line (though the patterns are complicated) an exact 
resemblance between the modes of ornamentation adopted on the north-east 
coast and by the natives of Levuka. But the Fijians use also forms that are 
unknown to the Australians. 

On the other hand, the natives of New Zealand in all their forms of 
decoration greatly contrast those of Australia. There the broken loop-coil and 
peculiar shell-like patterns prevail, and the lines are not tangential, as those 
carved by the Australians almost invariably are. 

The reader need not be reminded of the similarity that exists in all 
the forms adopted by the savages of Australia and those that are seen on the 
ancient urns dug out of the earth in Britain, and how often they are repeated 
in the architecture of the races from which we have derived civilization. 
Nearly as much will be taught by a careiul study of all the forms of art- 
decoration used by the peoples of the past and those now in use by savages 
as perhaps by investigating the structure of the languages of those now 
living. It is a work that will undoubtedly be undertaken at some future 
time, and the results will be of the highest value to mankind. All the short 
steps which were taken in the march towards a higher state of existence 
cannot be measured, but some can be scanned by the light which existing 
practices throw on those of the past ; and there is neither reason for doubt 
nor hesitation as regards the exceeding value of rigid research in a field 
that is almost untrodden. Savages, when they attempt ornamentation, appear 
to have the greatest difficulty in emancipating themselves from the control 
which geometrical figures exercise on the mind. They cannot, without an 
effort, make a large circle or a large curve. A snake drawn by an Australian 
is angular ; and the neck of the emu is angular. Perhaps it is correct to say 
that wherever curved lines prevail in the decorations of a race there is an 
approach to a state, as regards art, somewhat higher than that of the savage. 
It may be that of barbarism ; but still the use of the curve indicates a higher 
culture, than that known to races who have exclusively geometrical patterns. 
It was only in the so-called bronze age in Scandinavia that the continuous 
loop-coil was so prominent in the decorations of the people of that part of 
Europe, and though such forms are used also by tribes that are unacqainted 
with the use of metals, such exceptions would perhaps be as instructive in 
unfolding the history of the past as the occurrence in Australia of animals 
and plants whose congeners are found in Europe in Secondary and Tertiary 

Without culture, without refinement, the Australian is an artist. He paints 
in caves, in places where he has access to caves; and, where there are none, he 
bends a sheet of bark^ smokes the inner surface until it is blackened, and then 


depicts with the nail of his thumb or a bone-awl, pictures of birds, and beasts, 
men, and scenes in his life. 

He decorates the smooth rocks that front the sea, and finds in the repre* 
sentations that have.been made by others and in his own efforts the same kind 
of delight that fills the mind of the civilized man when he sits before his easel. 

Throughout Australia the practice of painting pictures in caves and on 
rocks, of inscribing strange devices on the barked trunks of trees, and of cutting 
away the grass so as to make figures on the ground, is common; and it is but 
just to repeat the observation of one well acquainted with their works, and say 
that nowhere is any trace of indecency to be seen. 

The figures that are given in this work sufficiently answer the oft-repeated 
statement that the blacks of Australia are unable to understand a picture when 
they see it. They are fond of pictures; and one thing that has astonished 
Europeans is the care they take, when partially civilised, to decorate their huts 
with wood engravings and colored pictures. There is probably not a little 
child at any of the Aboriginal settlements that would not at once recognise 
a photographic portrait of any well-known person who regularly visited the 

It is of great importance to ascertain with certainty the steps that have led 
to improvements in their arms and arts, and it is to be deplored that little 
information is available on a subject so interesting. There is some reason to 
believe that inventions have crept down gradually from the north. The longi- 
tudinal lines on some of the weapons of the West Australians are similar to a 
style of ornamentation common on the north and north-east coast. The Port 
Lincoln blacks are not equal to the natives of the Murray in fashioning their 
weapons, and there is little doubt that the natives living on the shores of Lake 
Eyre are far behind the men of the Murray and the Darling in many devices. 
They wind long strings round the body instead of the woven sash; and it is said 
the boomerang is in some parts of that district unknown. The bone fish-hook 
it is believed was used by only a few of the tribes of Victoria; and it is by no 
means certain that message-sticks were in common use amongst the people of 
the southern parts of Australia. Their shields, their spears, their nets, their 
hooks, indeed all they possess, appear to have been derived from the north; and 
some things — ^as, for instance, the closely wrought wicker bottle or basket made 
by the natives of Rockingham Bay — ^have not yet come very far southward. 
That they were gradually, very slowly — ^before the coming of the whites — 
adopting new contrivances leading to some improvement in their condition is 
I think certain, but their wandering habits as hunters and fishers, and the 
bonds formed of their superstitions, forbade the possibility of any rapid changes 
in their mode of life. It is only amongst the foremost nations of the earth that 
inventions and improvements advance by leaps and bounds. 

The offensive weapons of the natives are neither few nor simple. Some of 
them are but little known; and probably but for the descriptions given in this 
volume all knowledge of such of those as are very uncommon would have been 
lost. A mere catalogue of the weapons I have collected would occupy much 


Probably the first weapon used by the blacks was the WorvoirTiooTTa or Nulla- 
nulla. A young tree was pulled up and rudely fashioned into a club, the root 
forming the knob. The end was sharpened, and it could be used as well for 
striking an enemy as for digging up roots, and for making holes so as to enable 
the native to catch animals that burrow. It would be used also as a missile, 
and the kangaroo, the opossum, and the native dog and birds would be killed 
with the instrument. By-and-by other forms grew out of this very simple 
weapon. With the axe and the cutting tools made of teeth or chips of 
basalt they carved clubs out of solid wood, nearly always selecting, however, 
a tree or a branch that was somewhat like in form to the weapon that was 

The Kudrjee-runj the ordinary club or waddy of the natives of the Tarra, the 
Koomrbah-mallee and Moonoe of the Murray tribes, and the Mattina and the 
Meero of the north-east coast, are all weapons of the same kind; they are clubs, 
however much they diflfer in form and in the way in which they are ornamented. 
They are sharpened at the lower end, and each can be used as a missile. The 
double pointed Nulla^ulla of the north-east coast is employed, however, most 
commonly in the same way as the Konrnung of the Victorian natives. It is 
either thrown at the enemy or used to pierce him in close combat. The KoiMmng 
is not a club, but a fighting-stick. It is sharpened at both ends, and, whether 
used as a missile or a dagger, is a dangerous weapon. 

The KuUluk of the Gippsland natives, the Bittergan of the north-east coast, 
and the large sword made by the people of Kockingham Bay, were no doubt in 
their earlier forms like clubs, but they are to be classed rather with the Li-lil 
and the Quirriang^avHWun than with the Kudrjee-run. The Li-lil is not so often 
used as a missile as to strike at and cut the enemy, and may indeed be properly 
called a wooden sword. It is made of very hard wood, and it has a fine sharp 
edge. It is a better instrument than any of the wooden swords made by the 
natives of the north. This, like all the rest, was sometimes used as a missile, 
and also in defence to guard blows aimed by the enemy. 

Many of the clubs of the Australian natives are neatly made, and curiously 
ornamented, and as specimens of art are scarcely inferior to those of the Fijians. 
The Pijians usually ornament that part which is grasped by the hand. The 
heads generally are smooth — ^though some, those belonging to the chiefs, are 
elaborately carved. The head of one in my collection, of a globular form, is 
spiked, and the spikes curiously arranged in lines, reminding one of the flower 
of the dahlia. 

Though the woods used by the natives for their clubs are heavy and hard, 
their weapons are smaller and lighter than those of the Fijians. The larger 
Fijian clubs in my collection vary in length from thirty-six to forty inches, and 
they weigh from eighty-four to one hundred and eighty ounces. The larger 
Australian clubs weigh no more than forty ounces, and some less than twelve. 
But the large wooden club or sword used at Port Darwin weighs seventy-two 

The natives of the south and west of Australia use generally lighter weapons 
than the men of the north. 


Many of the epears made by the natives of Victoria are rader in form, 
though perhaps not less effective in war or in the chase than those seen in 
the northern and north-western parts of the continent. 

The double-barbed spear {Mongile) made by inserting pieces of quartz, 
quartzite, or black basalt in grooves cut in the wood ; the double-barbed spear, 
formed by cutting barbs out of the solid wood ; the Nandumy having barbs (also 
cut out of the solid wood) on one side only ; the reed spear {Tir-^er^ with a 
piece of hard heavy wood for a point ; the barbed spear {K(hanie) ; the bident 
( Gonhdalie) ; the trident ( Wormegoram) ; the simple wooden spear ( Ujie^luHiTde)^ 
having both ends sharpened, and one brought to a fine point ; the eel-spear ; and 
the Koy-yun (one of the favorite spears of the southern blacks) — are all occasion- 
ally used — ^and some exclusively — as weapons of war. Some are described as 
spears for fishing, but not one of them would not be used if a fight occurred ; 
and it is as difficult to distinguish their weapons from their implements as to 
determine sometimes whether a club can be more properly called an offensive or 
a defensive weapon. A man will throw his spears and use his club as a defence, 
or throw his club, and use some other weapon to ward off boomerangs or other 

The stone-headed spears of the north will, perhaps, be more interesting to 
scientific men than the wooden spears. The heads are as a rule not ground, but 
made by striking off flakes, and some in my collection are marvellous results of 
this art. Perfect in form, and thoroughly adapted to the purpose for which they 
are designed, they shame the more elaborate efforts of civilized men,' who with 
all their appliances could not excel, and probably could not equal, the works of 
the untutored savages of the north. It is believed that stone-headed spears are 
common only in the north, but the system of exchange so general amongst the 
tribes may have brought these stone-headed weapons to the knowledge of the 
southern black. Mr. Officer says that the natives of the Murray claim to be 
acquainted with this kind of spear; but I have not found it anywhere in 
Victoria — ^nor have any of my correspondents, as far as I am informed — ^nor has 
Mr. Officer, as he tells me, seen a stone in his district which in any respect 
resembles the stone spear-heads of the north. As soon as one is acquainted 
with these stone-heads, as soon as the sight is accustomed to them, it is easy 
enough to distinguish them, and to decide whether or not they are the work 
of the natives. Their character is distinctly marked. 

The rocks used for making spear-heads are black basalt and fine granular 
quartzite. I have not seen any made of quartz, which may be easily accounted 
for. The quartzite of which the spear-heads are made is almost like jasper ; 
it is tough, and when properly fractured gives a fine even edge, which quartz 
does not, and it is not brittle. The natives had their choice of rocks in the north, 
and invariably they chose the best for their purposes. K they had not had 
quartzite, they would, like many of the tribes of West Austredia, have used 

The lever used to propel the spear — ^the Kur-ruk^ Gur-reeky Murri-^wuny 
Meeraf or Womerahj of the east, west, and south, the Rogorouk or Wondxmk 
of the north — ^is the same in principle in all parts of Australia. In its rudest 


form it is a stick with a tooth or a piece of hard wood fastened with gum 
at one end. In its best form the projection for the reception of the hollow at 
the ends of the spear is carved out of the solid wood. In the southern parts of 
Australia the woomerah used by the natives is about twenty-seven inches in 
length, but in the north they employ for propelliug the long stone-headed spears 
an instrument about forty-four inches in length. 

This, like the boomerang, is peculiar to Australia, and yet, the Ounep (a 
cord with a loop) of New Caledonia, used for propelling the spear, is almost 
identical in principle. The Ounep answers precisely to the amentum of the 

The Kur-ruk enables the black to throw a spear to a great distance and 
with precision. He can kill a kangaroo at a distance of eighty yards. 

The throwing-sticks of the northern, eastern, and southern natives are long 
and narrow, and are often much ornamented. Those of the western tribes are 
broad canoe-shaped weapons, not marked in any way, but highly polished. 

The Aboriginal is careful of his spears and equally regardful of the Kur-ruk. 
His spears are to him what the fowling-piece or the rifle is to the sportsman or 
the soldier amongst our own people. He procures game with his spear, and it is 
the weapon on which he relies when overtaken by an enemy. He polishes and 
sharpens his spears from time to time, and if the wooden "tooth" of the Kur-ruk 
be broken, he mends it by inserting perhaps the tooth of an enemy slain in 
battle in the place where the wooden " tooth " was. This is easily done when 
he has ready at hand the strong sinews, got from the taQ of the kangaroo, and 
such an adhesive gum as that yielded by the grass-tree. When hunting he will 
carry several spears, and also when hiding in rushes or scrub in the hope of 
intercepting some enemy. 

He carries his spears, when in ambush, not in his hands but between his 
toes. He carries or drags them after him, and with lightning speed he throws 
them either by hand alone or with his Kur-ruL When an enemy is struck with 
the jagged spear in the chest or abdomen, he is disabled, but his life is not 
despaired of by his friends. Hiey drag the spear forwards through his body, 
the sufferer or his friends plug the holes with grass, and very often in an 
incredibly short space of time the warrior again appears, ready to battle with 
his foes. 

The spears used for taking fish remind one, as already stated, of those in 
tlse now and in ancient times. The bident is the same as that employed by the 
Egyptians ; and the account given by Dr. Qummow of the manner of fishing 
in the extensive flooded grounds that border the Murray is exactly like that of 
Wilkinson, and brings one again to the consideration of the similarities that 
exist between the customs of the savages of the South and those of races now 
scarcely otherwise known but by their monuments and their traditions. 

The play boomerang ( Wonguim) ; the war boomerang {Bamgeet) ; and the 
wooden swords {Li-lil and Quirrianff-an-wun) of the natives of the northern 
parts of Victoria are of uncommon interest ; and it is believed that the facts 
now given will do away with much misapprehension that exists in the minds of 
many scientiflc men in Europe respecting the form and character of this class 


of missiles. A number of weapons have been sent to Europe firom time to 
time, and experiments have been made with them, and qoite erroneous con- 
clusions have been formed respecting them. Because a war boomerang will not 
return to the feet of the thrower, and because the play boomerang has been 
thrown both by blacks and whites with indifferent success, it has been assumed 
that this missile is uncertain in its flight, and its return to the feet of the 
thrower an accident. 

Those who have seen a wonguim thrown by a native accustomed to its use 
need not be told that the statements published firom time to time in the scientific 
journals in Europe are founded on imperfect information, or dictated in an un- 
philosophical spirit by a too great desire to prove that the Dravidian races of the 
Indian Peninsula and the ancient Egyptians belong to the Australoid stock, and 
that the boomerang was known to the Egyptians. All the facts that have been 
gathered up to the present time support Professor Huxley's theory of the 
origination of the Australian race, or at any rate tend to support it, and it is a 
pity that any mischievous error should be allowed to obscure what little has 
been revealed by the researches of Professor Huxley, the late Dr. Bleek, the 
Bev. William Ridley, the Rev. Lorimer Fison, and others. 

There ia nothing to show that anything like the wonguim was known to any 
other people anywhere at any time, and it is at least doubtfiil whether any 
weapon resembling the bamgeet was known to the Egyptians. 

The Wcnffuim and Bamgeet are altogether different firom the Sapant^ or 
sickle-shaped sword, which is represented on Babylonian and Assyrian cylinders 
as the weapon of Merodach or Bel. 

Ail the mistaken notions respecting the Australian wonguim could have been 
at once disposed of if those who have been experimenting had referred to the 
statements made, nearly a quarter of a centuiy ago, by one of the ablest and 
most conscientious observers of his time — ^the late Sir Thomas Mitchell. Speak- 
ing of the weapons of Australia, he says '' The boomerang is one of the most 
reltnarkable of these missiles. Its flight through the air firom the hand of an 
Australian native seems in strict obedience to his wilL In its return after a 
very varied course to the foot of the thrower, this weapon seems so extraordinary, 
that a vice-president of the Royal Society, about twelve years ago, observed to 
me ^ that its path through the air was enough to puzzle a mathematician.' '' 

Sir Thomas's remarks are strictly accurate ; and any one may satisfy himself 
of the capabilities of the instrument who will take the trouble to make and 
experiment with the toy which is described in that part of this work which 
treats of the boomerang. It is almost useless for an adult European to seek 
to acquire the art of throwing the wonguim of the natives. Some of the 
wonguims one may throw very well, but others — and such are often the best 
— it is impossible to throw with success. The want of success, however, does 
not justify any one in stating therefore that the flight is uncertain. It would 
be just as reasonable for one who knows nothing of music to find fiikult with 
a flute or a violin. 

Nothing is known of the origin of the wonguim. The Bamgeet was probably 
in use for a long period prior to the discovery of the weapon which returns to 


liie thrower, and it is reasonable to believe that in making the Bamgeet the 
tight curves had accidentally been given to one of them. But even with a 
model in his hands it is almost impossible to guess how the Australian black 
was able to detect the slight peculiarities of form on which its flight depends, 
and to imitate them. There must have been many failures. It is not easy to 
throw a good weapon ; and the first imperfect boomerangs must have caused as 
much trouble to the natives and raised in their minds the same doubts as the 
wonguims and the barngeets that have been the subjects of experiment by some 
of the savans in England. 

The boomerang is not known in all parts of Australia. It is so stated by 
more than one. Mr. John Jardine, the police magistrate at Somerset, says that 
the boomerang is not known at Cape York. A correspondent at Cooktown 
(lat. 15° S.) makes the same statement; and another correspondent says, "I 
have doubts as to the boomerang being known, except by report, to the Narrinyeri 
(tribes of the lakes at the mouth of the Murray) as early as 1847. They 
certainly did not use it commonly at that time." And the wonguim, I believe, 
is not known by some tribes of the north who use the ornamented bamgeet. 

The facts indeed, as far as they are known, lead to the inference that the 
wonguim was first made by the people of the eastern coast ; but the thinnest 
and finest of these leaf-like missiles are found in Western Australia. How did 
they get there? And why are they not used in York Peninsula? Is the 
boomerang of the West Australians, unlike in form that of the eastern and 
southern parts of the continent, an invention of that people? It is almost 
certain that the wonguim was not brought with them by the natives that first 
crossed the straits ; and it had not become known to all the tribes when the first 
white settlers came to occupy the country. It is not a weapon that, its uses once 
discovered, would be discarded by any natives. This is a subject of the highest 
interest ; and though perhaps it is now too late for any investigations to lead 
to such results as would have accrued if the matter had been taken in hand 
when the country was first colonized, it is possible yet to procure information 
from the natives of the north and the interior, and to ascertain, perhaps, how 
the knowledge of the wonguim was spread, and whether or not it had its origin 
amongst the tribes of the east coast. The wonguim has not been found in New 
Guinea, and the Tasmanians knew nothing of it. 

Though the native would use anything that he might hold in his hand or 
that was within his grasp to ward off blows, or to protect himself against the 
boomerang or the spear, he had also very excellent defensive weapons. The 
shields of the natives of the east, south-east, and south are of two kinds. The 
Mulga — the wooden shield — is a defence when attack is made by the Kud-jee-^ 
run or Leon-ile, and though the general character of the weapon in all parts of 
Victoria is maintained, there are differences of form which show that the shield 
was being very gradually improved. The rather rude shields with a fiat surface 
commonly in use, and designed only for warding off blows aimed by an enemy 
who was armed with the club, began to give place to shields with an angular 
face, which could be employed as well against the club as the spear. Numerous 
figures are given showing the forms of these weapons and the manner in which 


they are ornamenteiL Many are heavy, weighing as much as fifty-six ounoes ; 
and the wives of the natives must have been sorely burdened in travelling from 
camp to camp when their warriors owned several of these weapons. 

The aperture for the hand in all the specimens in my collection varies in 
length from three to three and a half inches, and when covered with the skin of 
the opossum the space is not more than sufficient to allow of a lady grasping 
the handle of the shield. The natives have long narrow hands, and all who 
examine their weapons and implements are astonished when they see the small 
spaces that are cut out for the hand. Some of the club-shields are very elegant 
in form, and are superior, I think, to the African shields, which in many 
respects they resemble. 

The Gee^My or Ker-reem^ a thin, light, and broad canoe-shaped shield, is used 
as a defence against spears, and would be nearly useless in protecting a man 
against an enemy armed with a club. The specimens figured in this work fairly 
represent the character of these weapons. Care has been taken to give drawings 
of old weapons only — weapons made before the natives had become accustomed 
to use the knives and tools introduced by the whites. 

The Ker-reem reminds one of the wicker shield ( Gerrhurn) of the Persians, 
the Gerrha of the Assyrians, and the yi^v of the ancient Greeks — ^the square 
shield made of osier and covered with the hide of an ox.* The weight of the 
Ker-reem is usually not more than twenty-seven ounces. These shields are hard 
and strong and durable. 

In some the place for the hand is cut out of the solid wood ; but generally 
two holes are made, and a piece of the bough of a tree is bent, and the ends are 
inserted in the holes. Those with solid handles are old weapons, and are now 
very rare. 

The Goolmarry of the natives of Mackay in Queensland, and the very 
remarkable shield with a boss, and ornamented with zigzag lines, from Rocking- 
ham Bay, are difierent altogether in form, and in some respects in ornamenta- 
tion, from the shields used by the natives of the Namoi and the Peel, where 
weapons like those of the Murray and the Glenelg are common. I have in my 
collection a beautiful spear-shield from the Namoi, having a handle cut out of 
the solid wood, which in form and in ornamentation is exactly like the shields 
used by the natives of the Yarra. 

The woods available for making shields are in the south very different from 
those of the north, A species of ficus which grows in the north yields a soft 
and light wood, which is admirably suited to the requirements of the native ; 
and with this he has constructed a weapon which differs essentially from the 
heavy wooden club-shield and the lighter spear-shield of the men of the Murray 
and the Yarra. 

The weapons and implements of the West Australian natives differ in some 
respects from those of the natives of the eastern and southern parts of the 

* A wicker shield, usually corered with tappa, is found in use among some of the natiTea of 
the islands of the Solomon Group. 


The Kylie or boomeraDg is a thin and paper-like missile^ with very sharp 
edges, and capable of inflicting deadly wounds. Its form, too, is peculiar, pre- 
senting, as it does in looking at it as it Ues flat, two angles. Whereas the 
boomerangs of the natives of Victoria weigh in some oases as much as ten 
ounces, the West Australian kylies are seldom more than four ounces in weight. 
Light as they are, it is very difficult for a European to throw them with preci- 
sion. It is easier to manage one of the heavy weapons of the Victorian natives 
than this slight instrument ; and yet in the hands of an expert its flight is 
extraordinary, and when properly thrown it returns invariably to the feet of the 
thrower, or very near to his feet. They are made of the wood of a species of 
acacia ; and the colors of those in my collection are singularly beautiful — ^the 
rich reddish-brown streaked with dark-brown being usually bordered by a light- 
cream color. 

There are at least flve kinds of spears in use in West Australia, the most 
conmion being the Gid-jee, a wooden spear having a row of sharp chips on one 
side, which is thrown with the Meero; the light spear of very hard wood, sharp- 
ened at both ends ; the double-barbed spear {Pillara)^ thrown with the Meero; 
the single-barbed spear, and the barbed four-pronged spear. The spears are 
very light ; some weigh no more than six ounces and a half. They are gene- 
rally coated with a gum or resin, and the gum of the grass-tree is used for 
fastening the stone chips to the wood. One kind of spear is ornamented. 

The MeeroB or Womerdks are of two kinds : one is a shield-shaped weapon, 
thin and light but very strong, and the other is a long narrow throwing-stick. 
One of the latter in my collection is about forty-two inches in length, and is 
used for propelUng the long stone-headed spears that are in use on the north- 
west coast. 

It is commonly stated that the long spears are always thrown by hand ; but 
this is a mistake. All the very long spears from the north-west coast that I 
have seen are hollowed at the end for the reception of the " tooth " of the 

The shield of the West Australians — and it appears they have only one — ^is 
curiously marked, and diflers from the shields of the natives of the east. It is 
usually colored red and white. It closely resembles the shields brought from 
Central Africa. 

The stone hammer or stone axe (Kad-jo) is also different from those common 
in the south and east. It is said that they are often formed of two pieces of 
stone. The wooden handle is sharpened at the end^ and is used to assist in 
climbing trees. The specimens sent to me are very rough. The stones are not 
ground or polished, but formed by striking off chips. They are composed of 
flne-grained granite, which, unlike greenstones, diorites, and metamorphic rocks, 
cannot easily be shaped by grinding. 

The stone chisel {Dhabba) is like that made by the natives of the Grey 
Banges ; but the wooden handle is marked by incised lines, whether for orna- 
ment or to afford a better grip of the tool is not known. It is used in fight- 
ing, and also for cutting and shaping boomerangs, shields, clubs, and other 
weapons. The stone is quartz, obtained probably from veins in granite. 


The meatr-cntter or native kuife is nsnally figured and described as a saw ; 
and it much resembles a saw. Fragments of quartz are fastened to a piece of 
hard wood with the gum of the xantharrhceaj very much in the same way as in 
making a spear, and a rough sort of knife is the result. It is used for cutting 

These weapons and tools, and the native scoop or spade ( Waal-bee) ^ the 
waddy, the large war-club, and such implements as bone-needles or awls, com- 
plete the list of the instruments commonly in use on the west coast. 

Nearly all the information respecting the West Australian weapons and 
implements has been communicated by the Honorable F. Barlee, M.P., the 
Colonial Secretary of West Australia, and by Mr. H. Y. L. Brown, who 
made a geological survey of a portion of the territory. Mr. Brown increased 
my collection by a valuable donation of spears, throwing-sticks, tomahawks, 
&c., and but for his assistance I should have been unable to give a description 
of many very interesting weapons. 

Much ingenuity is displayed by the natives in plaiting and weaving grasses, 
flags, and sedges, and various vegetable fibres, into twine, bags, and nets. The 
leaves of the reed {Pkragmites communis), a sedge-like plant {Xerates longi" 
folia), different species of Carex, and the common grass {Poa Australis), are 
plaited by the women. The leaves are usually split with the nail, a number of 
the strips are put together, without being twisted, and another strip is wrapped 
round the bundle thus formed. The strips are neatly interlaced; and some- 
times a pattern is formed by varying the size of the strips or by using leaves of 
different colors. 

Many of the bags are made of a fibre obtained from the bark of the stringy- 
bark tree (Eticafypttis obliqud). The fibre is twisted, and the twine is very 
strong and durable. The fur of the opossum or the native cat is sometimes 
used for making twine. None of the baskets made in Victoria are so closely 
woven as to hold water, and it is doubtful whether there are any such in 
Australia. The wicker bottle or basket from Rockingham Bay, figured and 
described by Mr. John McDonnell, may perhaps hold water. Indeed it is more 
like a water vessel than anything else. 

It is a very amusing sight to see a group of native women employed in 
basket-making. Each has a heavy stone to keep the work in its place, and the 
plaiting is done by the hands, the band being looped over the large toe of the 
right foot. They chatter and sing continually as the business goes on, and they 
seem to enjoy the labor, and to pursue it as mechanically as an old woman 
knitting a stocking. 

When the whites came the native women made variously-colored twine from 
the old shawls and other garments that were given to them, and with this they 
netted bags, both for their own use and for sale. Some of these are very 

The vessels used for holding water are usually of wood. A gnarl of a gum- 
tree is cut off, and hollowed by fire and with the chisel or tomahawk. Some 
are large and heavy, and must have remained at the camp where they were 
made. Others are small, and could be carried with ease. 


The water vessels in some districts are made of bark, in other parts they use 
the skin of an animal ; and it is asserted that the natives of Encounter Bay 
fashion water vessels out of the heads of their deceased relatives. I have never 
seen any of these hideous drinking cups, and I cannot learn that they were ever 
in use amongst the tribes of Victoria, 

Shells, as might be supposed, are occasionally made to serve for holding 

Amongst the cutting instruments are the mussel-shell (D-born), wherewith 
they scraped and prepared skins for rugs, bags, and water vessels ; and the 
Leartge-walerty formed of the lower-jaw of the opossum, an excellent tool for 
carving designs on wood and for cutting and shaping the boomerang and other 

The bone and wooden awls and nails {Min-der'-min^y still in use where 
European nails and needles are not to be had, are very ancient implements. 
The bone-awls are found in the long disused mirrn-yongs and shell-mounds with 
stone tomahawks and chips of basalt. They are not ornamented in any way. 

The long stick {Kori^nung) carried by the women is a strong and rather heavy 
implement, having its point hardened by fire. It is employed in digging roots, 
in propelling the bark canoe, and for fighting. 

The Nerum ought properly to be classed with the offensive weapons of the 
natives. The fibula of the kangaroo is sharpened at one end, and to the other 
is attached an elastic rope of some vegetable fibre. There is a loop at the end, 
through which the bone can be thrust. This instrument was in former times 
used ordinarily for strangling an enemy, but it was perhaps, when the owner 
was not looking for some victim, employed as a rope for keeping together spears 
and the like. I have seen only one specimen of the Nerum, Something very 
like it is described by Mr. J. Moore Davis. 

The Weet^veet is a toy. It is formed of a piece of hard wood, the head being 
a double cone, and is generally used in sport, but a skilful native can throw it 
in such a manner as to seriously ii\jure or kill an opponent — time and place 
being suitable. This small instrument can be thrown by the hand alone to an 
incredible distance. It is a wonderful projectile. Its weight is less than two 
ounces, but when the proper impulse is given by the hand of the native, it has 
great velocity, and force enough to wound at a distance of two hundred and 
twenty yards. 

The corrobboree-stick (Koarn-goon) is merely a piece of wood, sharpened at 
each end. Woods that, when dry, are sonorous, are selected for this implement. 
They are beaten together, in time, during the corrobboree dance. 

The message-sticks of the Australians are highly interesting. Two are 
figured — one from the east coast and one from the west. The natives appear 
to have had for a long period a method of communicating intelligence by a kind 
of picture-writing. Their sticks are certainly a better means of transmitting news 
than the quipu of the Peruvians, which was only a cord on which variously- 
colored threads were attached as a fringe. The Australians, according to the 
statements made by my correspondents and confirmed by the evidence I have 
produced, could really send messages, describe the events of a journey, and 


fbrnish details of a kind likely to be usefol to their firiends. It is not without 
interest and importance that one of their message-sticks should have been 
produced in a court of justice in Queensland, and interpreted by a native 

All the wonderAil stories told of the Australians in the various works on 
ethnology, now becoming popular, are finally disposed of by the evidence of 
competent observers. The natives not only understand a drawing or a picture 
when they see it, but they themselves are tolerably good artists (probably much 
better artists than those who have represented them as little superior to 
monkeys or dogs), and they have invented, and probably have had in use for 
ages, picture-writing not inferior — indeed, as approaching a symbolical character, 
superior — to that of the birch-bark letter-writing of the Indians of America. 
There are, amongst some tribes, conventionalized forms, evidently ; and it is of 
the utmost importance to ascertain to what extent these are used, and by what 
tribes they are understood. This subject and many others equally interesting 
were being investigated at the time when the results of my investigations had 
to be given prematurely to the public. 

The information supplied by the Honorable F. Barlee, M.P., the Colonial 
Secretary in West Australia ; Mr. Bartley, of Brisbane in Queensland ; the 
Bev. Mr. Bulmer, of Lake Tyers in Gippsland ; and Mr. J. Moore Davis — ^is 
conclusive as to the practice of sending messages by the means above described ; 
and this alone must serve to raise the blacks of Australia to a much higher 
position amongst the races of the world than that hitherto ascribed to them. 

The boomerang, the womerah, the weet-weet, and message-sticks like theirs 
are not found amongst savages in other parts of the world ; and they indicate 
a gradual advancement in knowledge and invention, which, in the long course 
of ages, if their country had not been invaded by the whites, might perhaps 
have resulted in civilization. Their supply of food, however, was always un- 
certain, and mainly dependent on their exertions as hunters and fishers ; and 
only in those districts where the cultivation of indigenous or accidentally- 
imported roots and plants was practicable could they have emerged from their 
condition as savages. 

The stone implements of the natives of Australia — ^the tomahawks, knives, 
adzes, the chips for cutting and scraping, the sharpening-stones, the stones for 
pounding roots and grinding seeds, those used in fishing and in making baskets, 
and the sacred stones carried by the old men, are aU described with as much 
care as it was possible for me to employ. 

The ordinary tomahawk of the natives of Victoria consists of a stone, in 
shape resembling many of the axe-heads found in Europe, Asia, and America, 
and a wooden handle bent over the stone and firmly tied with twine. Gum is 
used to keep the wood in its place and to perfect the union. When complete, 
it is a strong and useful implement ; and a native with one of these can very 
quickly cut o£f a large limb from a tree, or make holes for his feet when he is 
climbing. There are found also in the mirm-yong heaps and in the soil very 
large tomahawks of diflferent forms which, it is said by the natives, were em- 
ployed in splitting trees. One in the possession of Mr. Stanbridge is nearly 


fourteen inches in length and five inches in breadth. It was found in a field 
near Daylesford, and may have been used, Mr. Stanbridge thinks, as a mattock 
for digging. 

I have never seen any of these large implements in the hands of the natives 
of Victoria, but the blacks of the Munara district and those of some parts of 
the interior use very heavy tomahawks. 

The natives of the northern tributaries of the River Darling do not in all 
cases attach handles to the stone-heads. Many use them in the same manner 
as the Tasmanians used their rough stone tools. The stone is held in the palm 
of the hand, and the top is grasped .with the fingers and thumb. 

The people of West Australia, as already stated, make their tomahawks of 
a fine-grained granite, and the cutting edge is formed by striking off flakes. 
They are not ground, and some it is said are formed of two pieces of stone. 
The mode in which they are fashioned is clearly shown in the figures. 

The natives of the east used also for chisels and knives pieces of quartzite 
fashioned in the same manner ; and the spear-heads of the north are made by 
striking off flakes. 

If therefore all the stone implements and weapons of the Australians be 
examined, one set might be put apart and classed as the equivalents of those of 
the PalaBolithic period of Europe, and another set as the equivalents of those of 
the Neolithic period. A man of one tribe will have in his belt a tomahawk 
ground and highly polished over the whole of its surface, and not far distant 
from his country the people will use for tomahawks stones made by striking off 
flakes. The figures given in this work sufficiently establish this fact, and 
would seem to press strongly against the theories of Sir John Lubbock, and to 
favor the views expressed by the Duke of Argyll. 

But it would be unphilosophical not to use great care in applying such facts 
as those I have mentioned to the consideration of a question of so much mo- 
ment. The classification made by Sir John Lubbock is confined by him to 
Europe, and it is based not alone in all cases on the fol*ms of the stone imple- 
ments, but also on the character of other remains that are found with them. 
It is beyond question that the Tasmanians used very rough stone implements, 
which were made by chipping, that their weapons and tools were few in number, 
and inferior to those of the natives of Australia, and that their condition alto- 
gether was lower than that of the Australians, amongst whom as a rule ground 
and polished stone axes are the implements commonly employed for cutting 
wood. It rests with Sir John Lubbock to consider these facts in connection 
with the classification he has employed. It is obvious that if all the natives of 
Australia and Tasmania had perished before the whites had had an opportunity 
of observing their customs, and if the only knowledge obtainable respecting 
them was that to be got from their implements of stone, some very curious 
results would have followed on applying Sir J. Lubbock's classification to them. 
The Tasmanian stone implements would have been regarded as of PalaBolithic 
age, and some of the Australian specimens as of Neolithic age — that is to say 
if the evidence derivable from these was alone admissible ; but as regards the 
stone implements of Europe, Sir John Lubbock adduces much more, and not 


the least important is that which relates to the conditions under which the 
European stone implements are found. In the Palaeolithic period, '^man shared 
the possession of Europe with the mammoth, the cave-bear, the woolly-haired 
rhinoceros, and other extinct animals ;" and with the remains of these are found 
chipped axes and other implements that appear to be characteristic of that 
period. The geologist does not necessarily suggest contemporaneity when he 
describes in different parts of the globe the Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene 
deposits; and it is in a similar manner and with the like results that the 
archadologist should work. To bring into complete harmony the several stages 
of growth, whether ancient or modern, which have their records in the rocks or 
in the works of man, one must forget Time, and, in the first attempts at classi- 
fication, viewing the whole earth, look for resemblances and differences in the 
things themselves, rather than seek to ascertain which of them were formed 

A careful consideration of the condition of savages in all parts of the globe 
tends rather to support the conclusions of Sir J. Lubbock, and to suggest their 
extension beyond the limits he has marked out than to invalidate them. He 
made undoubtedly a step of the highest importance in the advancement of a 
science that but yesterday — as it were — ^had no existence when he suggested the 
division above referred to ; and a patient study of the evidence he has collected 
shows unmistakably that his method is but the beginning of a classification 
that will have results of the highest importance to mankind. 

It is proper to call attention to the fact that no works of art have been 
found in the recent drifts of Victoria, and these drifts have been largely and 
widely explored by gold-miners. "Was Australia unpeopled during the ages 
that preceded the formation of the gravels that form low terraces in every 
valley, and the beds of soft volcanic ash that yet cover grass-grown surfaces? 
If peopled, why do we not find some evidence — ^a broken stone tomahawk or a 
stone spear-head — ^in some of the most recent accumulations? Their stone im- 
plements are not found in caves or in the mud of lagoons with the bones of the 
gigantic marsupials, or any of the now extinct predaceans that have their living 
representatives in the island of Tasmania. The bones of the Tasmanian devil 
{Sarcophiltis ursinus)^ the great kangaroo {Macrcptis Titan), the Tkylacoleo^ 
the Nototherium, and the Diprotodan, and those of a reptile {Megalania prisca) 
allied to. the lace lizards of Australia, are found abundantly in mud flats in 
various parts of Australia ; but nothing has been discovered to show that the 
continent was inhabited by man when these now well-preserved relics were 
clothed with flesh, and the animals were feeding on the plains and in the 
streams which were as well fitted then as now, as shown by the fruits and 
seeds that have been discovered, to afford the means of support to a savage 

What was the condition of Australia when the flint implement makers of 
the drift period were living? Probably an unpeopled tract, where the then 
nearly extinct volcanoes shed at times over the landscape a feeble light, and 
the lion gnawing the bones of a kangaroo was watched with jackall-like eyes by 
the native dog, ready to eat up such scraps as his powerftd enemy might leave 


when his hunger was appeased. It is almost certain that daring the period 
of the large carnivorous marsupials man was not there to contest with the lion 
the right to the proceeds of the chase. 

Chips for cutting and scraping, fragments of tomahawks, and pieces of black 
basalt^ are found on the low Silurian ranges near the rivers and creeks in all 
parts of Victoria ; and wherever the soil is dug or ploughed over any consider- 
able area, old tomahawks are turned up, thus showing the immense period of 
time that the land has been occupied by the native race. 

The same fact is also strongly impressed on the mind when their qnarriea 
are examined. One quarry of diorite, near Mount William, in the parish of 
Lancefield, is of great extent, and the quantities of stone taken away by the 
natives must have been very great. Another near Kilmore occupies a large 
area; and there are besides numerous spots where black basalt was quarried. 

The nets made by the natives of Australia are similar to those used in 
Europe. The twine is made strong or slight in accordance with their needs. 
Sometimes they use kangaroo-grass, and sometimes a fibre obtained from the 
bark of a tree. In the southern parts of Australia the fibre of the stringybark 
is usually employed. 

The large net made of kangaroo-grass is provided with stone sinkers and 
bark floats. The hand net is stretched on a bow. 

Some of the nets are very well made ; and strangers are incredulous when 
told that they are the work of the natives. 

Their fish-hooks, of shell or bone or wood, are all skilfully contrived. 

It has been stated that the natives were unacquainted with fish-hooks prior 
to the arrival of the whites ; but this is in all probability a mistake. Cook says 
"their fish-hooks are very neatly made, and some are exceedingly small," and 
P^ron figures two shell fish-hooks exactly like the shell fish-hook fi*om Rocking- 
ham Bay and the ancient bone fish-hook from Gippsland. 

The very simple contrivance of wood or bone, described by Mr. J. A. Panton 
as having been used by the natives of Geelong to take fish, is, it is believed, 
unknown elsewhere. Something, however, somewhat similar, but barbed, is 
found in Queensland. 

The barbed fish-hooks, made of shell and wood, employed by the natives of 
New Zealand and the South Seas, are of complex structure, but it is doubtful 
whether they are better adapted for the intended purpose than the simple shell- 
hooks of Australia. 

The ordinary method of producing fire in Australia is by twirling with the 
pakns of the hands an upright stick. One end is inserted in a hole in a flat 
piece of soft wood ; and, if the operator is skilful, he quickly raises a smoke, and 
in a few moments a fire. Another, and perhaps a better method — ^but one 
practised in Australia, as far as I know, by the natives of the Murray only — is 
to cut a groove in a log, if there is not a crack that answers the purpose, to fiU 
this with well-powdered dry leaves or dry grass, and rub a wooden knife across 
the groove. Fire is got very rapidly by this method. 

The natives did not necessarily use the fire-sticks very frequently. The 
women carry fire when the tribe is travelling — ^a piece of decayed wood, a cone 


of the Banksiaj or a stick, is nearly always kept boming^ and a fire for cooking 
is made qaickly when needed. 

The Australian method of producing fire, by twirling the upright stick, is 
perhaps the most ancient known amongst all the races of men. The Brahmins 
use it in their religious ceremonies, and it is certainly older than their religion ; 
the Greeks had the pyreia and the trvpanan; the Aztecs and Peruvians their 
fire-sticks ; and the superstitious people of the north of Europe go back to the 
practices of their forefathers, and use willfire when they believe that their cattle 
have been injured by witchcraft. And it is as widely known as it is ancient. It 
is practised in Africa, in America, in Tahiti, in Borneo, in New Zealand, in Java, 
and in Japan. Amongst savages the fire so obtained is not generally looked 
upon as in any way peculiar, but in the oldest forms of religion it is regarded 
as sacred; and the Brahmin using the Arani in a Hindu temple to-day is 
acting in obedience to a belief as to the manner in which fire was first procured 
from heaven that is not very different from that entertained by the natives of 
Victoria. We may well wonder how instruments so simple as those described 
came to be used for the purpose of procuring fire. 

Perhaps the rubbing together of the branches of trees in a gale, which the 
Bev. Bichard Taylor states has caused trees to take fire in New Zealand, may 
have suggested the use of wood ; but it is more probable, I think, that in 
rubbing sticks together the black discovered that they rapidly heated, and, 
persevering, at last made them smoke, and finally adding dry grass or bark, 
produced a fiame. 

The natives of those parts of Australia which are not visited by the Malays 
or Papuans have so simple a method of constructing a canoe that the invention 
cannot have been derived from foreigners. It is, I think, undoubtedly their 
own ; and though I have said that it is simple, a European, without instruction 
from a native, would probably fail in an attempt to make a bark canoe. Mr. 
Hamilton Hume attempted it on one occasion and failed. 

When the natives have to cross a river, they strip a sheet of bark from a 
tree ; if necessary, it is heated in the ashes of a fire, and moulded to a proper 
form. The ends are stopped with walls of clay, and it is then ready for use. 
This, however, is a temporary expedient. A better canoe is made by selecting 
bark which is thin enough and fiexible enough to admit of the ends being tied 
with a rope of vegetable fibre, stretchers are placed in it and sometimes wooden 
ribs, and ties are used to keep it in shape. 

When the women are fishing they place stones in the canoe, and keep a fire 
burning, so that they can cook the fish as soon as caught. They propel the 
canoe either by the long stick {Kortnung or Jenrdook)^ or by a scoop-shaped 
paddle of bark. 

The smallest bark canoes used in Victoria are not more than seven feet six 
inches in length, and the largest about eighteen feet. The former will carry two 
persons, and the latter six or more. 

The barks of the mountain ash, the stringybark, the red-gum, the blue-gum, 
the white-gum of the valleys, the Snowy Biver mahogany, and that of other 
varieties of eucalypts, are used for making canoes. 



The natives as a rule did not venture far from the sea-coast, even when pro- 
vided with the better kinds of canoes. 

At Twofold Bay and Jervis Bay, in New South Wales, they were, however, 
adventurous, and caught and brought to land very large fish. The men of that 
part of the coast seem to have taken readily to seafearing. Mr. Boyd, a settler 
at Twofold Bay, employed the natives many years ago as part of the crew of his 
yacht ; and at one time they were constantly engaged in the boats of the whaling 
station, where their excellent sight rendered them extremely useful in seeing 
and harpooning the fish.* 

The natives used the bark of trees for canoes because of the labor and diffi- 
culty of carving good canoes out of solid wood. K they had been mariners, they 
would have used the splendid trees that grow in many places very close to the 
water's edge in fashioning durable vessels. There are perhaps no trees in the 
world better suited for canoes than some of those growing in the Australian 
forests, but the woods generally are hard and difficult to work, and it is abso- 
lutely necessary, in order to get good sound wood, that they be felled at the 
right season. It is the belief of many that the Australian woods will not float 
in water, and that is the reason that the natives use bark. But iron ships 
float, and a canoe made of ironbark wood not only floats, but is buoyant. 
Even the large thick heavy wooden tarnuk, made of the gnarl of a gum-tree, 
is buoyant. The story generally believed, that Australian woods are unfit for 
canoes because they are not buoyant is like that told of the Fellows of the 
Eoyal Society of England. One at least did not believe that a vessel of water 
was not made heavier when a fish was put into it. He made an experiment, 
and convinced his colleagues that his heterodoxy was orthodoxy. And so, when 
the native woods are tested, they are found to be admirably adapted to single- 
trunk canoe building. 

The means of transport by water on the north-east coast, and at Cape York, 
have been improved by the natives so far as to permit of their being properly 
called navigators. Some of their canoes formed of the trunk of the cotton-tree 
{Cocklospernmm) are hollowed out. They are more than fifty feet in length, and 
each is capable of conveying twelve or fifteen natives. They are provided with 
outrigger poles, and are propelled by short paddles or sails of palm-leaf matting. 

The canoes of the north-eastern natives, differ altogether from the rafts or 
canoes seen by Dampier on the north-west coast, and the bark canoes found in 
the lakes of the interior by Oxley some sixty years ago, and by Mitchell nearly 
forty years ago. The bark canoe, it may safely be assumed, is Australian-^as 
much as the boomerang or the weet-weet ; but the hollowed log canoes of the 
north-east are imitations of the proas of the Malays and the Papuans. 

A very interesting controversy arose about fourteen years ago respecting 
the canoes in use in Australia; and the letters of the late Mr. Beete 
Jukes, Mr. Brierly, and Sir D. Cooper, addressed to the editor of the 
Athenceum^ contain so much that is interesting, both in consequence of the 
errors made originally and the rectification of the errors, that I have quoted 

* Stokes, Yol. n., p. 417. 


the letters. They are very valuable ; and the editor, it may be Bupposed, mil 
not object to a piece of history so important to Australians being transferred 
to these pages. 

The superstitions and tales and legends of the Australian natives, the 
folk-lore of this people, have never until within the last few years engaged 
attention. A long time ago — long before it was anticipated that any such 
researches would have valuable results — I sought to gather together all the 
tales and legends of the natives of Victoria, and not without a certain measure 
of success ; but it is believed the old people could have related many that are 
not recorded or mentioned in this volume. The Rev. Mr. Bulmer, the late Mr. 
Thomas, the Rev. Mr. Hagenauer, Mr. John Green, and Mr. Alfred W- Howitt, 
have furnished those which now appear; and scientific men who study com- 
parative mythology will regard their contributions with the greatest interest. 
To the Rev. Mr. Hartmann I am indebted for a portion of an old native story, 
that of Duan (the squirrel) and Weenbulain (the spider). It is very valuable. 
It is a tale widely known and therefore ancient. A new story in these times 
is not often carried far, and is likely to be soon forgotten, and this it may 
be supposed had its origin with others, certainly ancient, which give an account 
of the performances of various beasts and birds when they were in the estima- 
tion of the savages the equals or the superiors of men. 

Birds and beasts are the gods of the Australians.* 

The eagle, the crow, the mopoke, and the crane figure prominently in all 
their tales. The native cat is now the moon ; and the kangaroo, the opossum, 
the emu, the crow, and many others who distinguished themselves on earth, are 
set in the sky and appear as bright stars. 

Fire was stolen. And this and all the legends of the natives remind one 
of the folk-lore of the Aryan or Indo-European race. The fables of the Austra- 
lians and their references to the contests between the eagle and other birds are 
exactly like those known to the Saxons in every part of Europe. The eagle, 
the owl, the wren, the robin redbreast, the woodpecker, and the stork play 
nearly the same parts in European tales as the eagle, the crow, the mopoke, 
and the little bird with a red mark over his tail in Australian legends. 

* <* Let MM not think too meanly of the. intelligence of onr simple ancestors becanse thej coald 
regard brutes as gods. It was an error not peculiar to them, but common to all infant races of 
men. The earlj traditions of every people point back to a period when man had not jet risen to 
a clear conception of his own pre-eminence in the scale of created life. The power of discerning 
differences comes later into play than that of percelying resemblances, and the primeTal man, liying 
in the closest communion with nature, must have begun with a strong feeling of his likeness to the 
brutes who shared with him so many wants, passions, pleasures, and pains. Hence the attribution 
of human Toice and reason to birds and beasts in fable and story, and the doctrine of the trans- 
migration of souls. To this feeling of fellowship there would afterwards be superadded a sense of 
a mysterious something inherent in the nature of brutes, which was lacking in that of man. He 
found' himself so raatly surpassed by them in strength, agility, and keenness of sense ; they evinced 
auch a marTellons foreknowledge of coming atmospheric changes which he could not surmise; 
they went so straight to their mark, guided by an instinct to him incomprehensible, that he might 
well come to look upon them with awe as beings superior to himself, and surmise in their wondrous 
manifestations the workings of something dirine."— C«no«t^'e« of Indo-European Traditicm and 
Folk-Lore, by Walter K. KeUy, 1863. 


There is mncli playftilness and sagacity apparent in the stories of the 
Aborigines. The injuries done to the bear are repaired after a curious fashion ; 
and the wombat revenges the blow given him by the kangaroo in a manner 
that accounts sufficiently for the appearance he now presents. 

Many of their tales recall to recollection the fables of Ovid, and others are, 
in character, not unlike some of . those in the Pansiya panas jataka of the 

The account that is given of the manner in which Pund-jel made the first 
men somewhat resembles the work attributed to Tiki in the mythology of the 
New Zealanders. 

The myths and tales now presented do no more than serve to show how 
much is yet to be done in Australia in this most interesting field of enquiry. 
There is not a tribe of natives anywhere that does not include in it old men and 
old women who are the depositaries of its superstitions ; and from them could 
be obtained stories as valuable probably as any that are given in this volume. 

The late Dr. Bleek labored in South Africa with marked success in gather- 
ing portions of the great store of Bushman traditionary lore, which but for 
him would in all probability have remained unknown ; and here in Australia 
there is a larger field, and the results it is certain would amply repay the 
labors of any who could devote time to setting down, if possible in the native 
tongue, with an exact translation between the lines, all that the natives have to 
tell respecting the beings that, in their belief, formerly peopled the earth. 

Unthinking persons treat all their tales with contempt ; but it is to their 
myths one has to look in any attempt to discover to what stock the Australian 
belongs. To study the mind of the savage is not a worthless employment 
either ; and his legends and tales and superstitions reveal the workings of his 
undisciplined intellect, show his perception, and enable one to observe to what 
extent his power of reasoning is developed. 

The information I have collected illustrative of the languages of the colony 
of Victoria will no doubt be welcomed by philologists. Many of the papers 
have been written by gentlemen who were well aware of the importance of the 
work they were engaged upon, and they have carefiilly and conscientiously 
dealt with the several questions which I put to them. 

There are in all twenty-three papers, and the names of the contributors 
comprise many of those in the colony who are most competent to deal with so 
difficult a subject as the native language. The vocabularies compiled by Mr, 
Bunce, Mr. Parker, the Eev. Mr. Hagenauer, and Mr. Green ; the examples of 
the conjugation of verbs, the declension of nouns and pronouns, the explana* 
tions of the grammatical structure of the tongues spoken in Victoria, and the 
stories and sentences in the native language, written down exactly as spoken, 
and with interlinear translations, by Mr. Bulmer, Mr. Hagenauer, Mr. Hart- 
mann, Mr. Spieseke, and Mr. Howitt ; the native names of trees, shrubs, and 
plants; and the native names of the hills, rivers, creeks, and other natural 

features — ^willj it is hoped, be accepted as important and valuable contributions, 

* Journal of the Ceylon Branch qf the Royal Asiatic Society — 1847, 


and snch as are likely to assist towards a better comprehension of the 
peculiarities of the Australian languages. 

The difficulties that beset the enquirer in attempting to unravel the intrica- 
cies of the dialects are great and very numerous. Changes have been effected 
in consequence of words being, for various reasons^ from time to time tabooed, 
and thereafter falling into disuse. Ellipses are numerous, and are so used as 
to disguise the dialects ; the sounds of words are altered for euphony as they 
take new terminations ; many of the consonants are interchangeable, and the 
substitution of b and d for their cognates p and t alone is often embarrassing. 
These difficulties and the general absence of relative pronouns, the absence of 
gender (with certain remarkable and unexplained exceptions), and the use of 
the dual, render the study of the native tongues impossible to any but those 
who live with the blacks, hear their speech day after day, and keep continually 
on the alert to detect the meaning of obscure sentences. 

Many of the words are onomatopoeic in their origin, and a few examples are 
given in the text. They are made from sound ; and if all the words thus formed 
could be collected, we should have a large number of root-words that would 
assist not only in elucidating the languages of Australia, but would be of essen- 
tial service in the study of all the languages of the world. Still greater would 
be the profit if words formed from the sensations produced by taste, sight, smell, 
and touch could be eliminated. That words bearing relation to the senses, and 
naturally giving expression to them, have been made in the same manner 
(though necessarily not so easily discoverable) as those that are imitative of 
sounds, is, I think, beyond doubt. The words used by savages must, except in 
comparatively rare instances, have arisen out of their necessities ; they are not 
the result of art or of accident ; nor can they have been chosen arbitrarily. 

One of the most thoughtful of modern writers has said that " the com- 
monest words we use to indicate ideas are essentially metaphorical, bringing 
home into the world of mind images derived from material force, and carrying 
forth again into the outward world conceptions born of that mental power 
which alone is capable of conceiving ;" * and this being true of the languages 
of races of the highest culture, it is easy to understand how other, not always 
unlike, directing and impulsive powers may have given a distinctive character 
to the dialects of the Australian natives, without, however, introducing material 
changes of structure. 

The reduplications in the dialects of Victoria are very numerous. Such 
words as Boorp-boorp, Bullenr-bullen, Dong-dong, Bulk-bulk^ Kalk-kalk^ Mung^ 
mung, Ghur-ghur, Woller-woller, Boolng-boolng, and Knen-knen, occur frequently 
in all the vocabularies, the number per cent, being probably not less than four. 
If words that are not literally reduplications, the sounds being changed for 
euphony, are included, the percentage would be much higher, probably six ; 
and the language is, so to speak, double in another way. The Bev. Mr. Bulme? 
has shown that the natives have two words for the same thing, and if one be like 
in sound to the name of any one who dies, it is dropped. It becomes thambaraj 

• The Reign of Law, by the Duke of Argyll (sixth edition, 1871), p. 41. 


as the blacks of the Murray say ; it recalls the memory of the dead, and must 
be no more used. The illusion of those who believe that the languages of 
Savages is simple would be rudely dispelled if they addressed themselves to an 
examination of the dialects of any part of Australia. They are highly inflected, 
complex, and many of the sentences are so constructed as to make a translation 
impossible. It is as difficult to give the meaning in English of some of their 
phrases as it would be to translate into Greek or Latin the pigeon patois of 
Hong Kong. 

Examples are given of the gesture-language in use amongst the natives of 
Cooper's Creek. It appears to be well understood, and of great use to them. 
It is referred to by Mr. Samuel Gason, who had on some occasions to have 
recourse to it. 

It was believed for a length of time that there were several distinct lan- 
guages in Australia — ^languages, that is to say, not belonging even to the same 
class. The works of Threlkeld, Grey, Teichelmann, Schiirmann, Moore, and 
Moorhouse, and the investigations made by Buhner, Hartmann, and Hagenauer, 
establish the fact of the unity of the tongues throughout the continent. The 
Australian languages, like those of the Indo-European race, are derived from a 
common source. The comparative tables in this work — imperfect as they are — 
confirm the conclusions of the more advanced among philologists ; and it may 
be safely assumed that further researches will more distinctly prove the truth 
of the theory propounded by the gentlemen whose published works I have 
referred to.* 

Large tracts, with well-marked natural boxmdaries, are peopled by "nations,'* 
each composed of many separate tribes, difiering amongst themselves but little 
in speech, in laws, and in modes of warfare ; and it is believed that the lan- 
guages or dialects of the "nations" stand in a much closer relationship to the 
mother tongue than the Italian, French, and Spanish stand to the Latin. Mes- 
sengers ( Grtialla Tvattow) find no difficulty in acquiring a complete knowledge of 
the languages and dialects of the neighbouring tribes ; and men belonging to 
tribes far remote from each other are able to make themselves mutually 
understood after they have been together for a few hours. 

The reasons for the belief in the unity of the Australian languages are ad 
follows : — 

1. Numerous words are nearly the same in sound, and have the same 

meaning in various localities throughout the entire continent. 
Amongst these are the words for eye, tongue, hand, teeth, blood, 
sun, and moon. 

2. The words in use throughout the continent are of the same character 

and have a similar sound. 

* '' I hare no hesitation in afiirming that as far as any trihes have been met and conyersed with 
hy the colonists, namely, from one hundred miles east of King George's Sonnd up to two hundred 
miles north of Fremantle, comprising a space of aboye six hundred miles of coast, the language is 
radically and essentially the same. And there is much reason to suppose that this remark would 
not be confined to these limits only, but might be applied, in a great degree, to the pure and tmcor- 
rupted language of the whole island." — Descriptive Vocabtdary of the Language in common «m 


S. The similarity in the personal prononns. 

4. The absence (generally) of gender. 

5. The low level of the numerals, and the recurrence at many points &r 

remote from one another of the same or nearly the same word for 
" two." 

6. The nse of the dual. 

7. The nse of suffixes. 

8. The languages or dialects of a district as small as Victoria present, 

in some cases and in some respects, differences as great as those 
observed when the languages spoken at the extreme points of the 
continent are compared. 

To these might be added the fact that reduplication is universal throughout 
the continent ; but as this is a characteristic of the languages of savages gene- 
rally, it has not much value. That they have usually two words for the same 
thing is, however, of a higher value ; but it is not known whether this system 
is maintained in all parts of Australia. 

If these facts stood alone, uncorroborated by other circumstances, there 
might still be room for doubt, as, for instance, if the physical aspect and con- 
stitution of the natives presented remarkable differences, and if their arms and 
modes of life were diverse ; but they are not. They are one people — oneness 
having more force in regard to them and their language than it has when applied 
to the Aryan family of nations, whose languages are traceable to that of the 
tribes who dwelt on the table-land lying between the mountains of Armenia 
and Hindoo-Kush; 

The vocabularies for Victoria seem to establish the fact that in this area at 
any rate there is one language with many dialects, or several languages so 
similar in words and grammatical structure as to satisfy the enquirer that they 
have had a common origin. Is it possible to gather from the character of the 
dialects any hint as to the manner in which the most southern part of the 
continent was peopled? After a careful study of the tables, I am inclined to 
believe that the tribes followed the course of the great rivers and the margin of 
the coast from the north towards the south. The language of the people of 
Telta, on the Lower Murray, is that of the Comu tribe, who inhabit the tract 
north of the Biver Darling, and differs in some respects from the language 
spoken by the people of the Upper Murray and those living on the banks of 
the streams which have their sources in the western slopes of the Cordillera. 
The tribes who first touched the north banks of the Murray and crossed the 
stream appear to have followed the rivers (its affluents), such as the Wimmera, 
the Avoca, the Loddon, the Campaspe, the Goulburn, and the Ovens, to their 
sources; and it is probable that these tribes came, not across the Cordillera, but 

amongst the AborigineM of Western Australia, by George Fletcher Moore, Adyocate-General of 
Western Australia, 184S. 

"It may indeed be asserted that the dialects of all New Holland, so far at least as they hare 
been coUected, from New South Wales to Swan River, constitute only one language."— Foca6ti/ary of 
the Pamkalla Language epoken by the Natives inhabiting the Western Shores of Spencer^s Gu(ff 
by C. W. Schiirmonn, 1844. 


4Soathwards, all the waj from the western shores of York Peninsula. The tribes 
of the Murray have several different dialects ; the people of the Wimmera 
district speak a language that is almost the same in all parts ; the dialects of 
the tribes of the western plains and the coast seem to change much as they 
are followed eastwards ; the Yarra tribes and the Western Port tribes are allied 
to the tribes of the great western plains ; and Gippsland appears to have been 
peopled either from a stream coming southwards along the coast, or from the 
head waters of the Murray. Their affinities are rather with the tribe of the 
Eliewa than with the tribes of the western plains. 

It is indeed but reasonable to suppose that the lakes of Gippsland were 
peopled by a tribe that travelled southward by way of Twofold Bay ; but some 
families may have entered it by crossing the Alps, so as to reach the head waters 
of the Tambo ; or the men of the Qoidburn may have penetrated the country 
near the point where the Thomson has its sources. The natives of Gippsland 
are different from the people of the west; both in dialect and in physical 
character; but both the dialect and the physical character have undergone 
alterations, undoubtedly, in consequence of the isolation of the tribes of this 
tract and the conformation of the country. 

Here in Victoria, as in Europe and Asia, we see the effects produced by the 
aspects of nature, by climate, and by the infrequency of intercourse with larger 
populations. The people inhabiting Gippsland, cut off in the winter season 
certainly from intercourse with neighbouring tribes, and dwelling in the summer 
months on the lofty heights that overlook the lakes, were stout and brave 
fighting-men, exhibiting certain slight differences in physiognomy and structure 
that set them apart from the tribes of the west, and caused them to be regarded 
as enemies more than ordinarily dangerous. 

The origin of the Australian race is still hidden from us. We cannot yet 
penetrate the thick darkness of pre-historic times. It may be that the con- 
tinent was peopled from Timor. The physical geography of the area, it might 
be said, suggests this ; and some strength is lent to the supposition from the 
occurrence of Australian words in the languages of Ombay, Timbora, and 
Mangarei. But there was one stream from the north-east. 

The Bev. Mr. Bidley seems to think that Australia was peopled by a race 
that came by way of Torres Straits, and that the native names for New Guinea 
and Australia favor this supposition. Kai Darvdai, the name applied to 
Australia, he believes means " Little Country ; " and Muggi Dowdaij or New 
Guinea, means "Great Country." "To those," he says, "who live near Cape 
York, and pass to and fro across the strait, without any means of knowing the 
real extent of Australia or New Guinea, the low narrow point of land which 
terminates in Cape York must appear very small compared with the great 
mountain ranges of New Guinea. Begarding danxiai as a variation of ton>rai, 
a coimtiy, I think it probable that ^ Little Country' was the name given by the 
Aborigines to Australia. It may be that those of the race of Murri who first 
came into this land, passing from island to island, xmtil they reached the low 
narrow point which forms the north-eastern extremiiy of this island-continent, 
gave the name Kai Towrai (Little Country) to the newly-discovered land ; and 


as they passed onward to the soath and west, and found oat somewhat of the 
▼ast extent of the coontry, the necessities and jealousies of the nometons 
&niilles that followed them forbade their return. The cmrent of nugratioa 
was ever onward towards the south and west ; and therefore the north-eastern 
comer of Australia was always the dwelling-place of a people ignorant of 
the Tast expanse beyond them, and willing to call it still Kai Dcwdaij the 
little country/' • 

This suggestion, though perhaps based on a misconception of the use or 
meaning of the words Kai Dawdai and Muggi Dowdaiy is well worthy of care- 
ful consideration. By what route soever the first men came to the continent, 
it is almost certain that the settlement was at first partial and graduaL 
There could have been no great wave of migration ; and it is peihaps doubtful 
whether^ if a canoe full of natives from some distant island had been stranded 
anywhere on the shores of Australia, they would have found subsistence. Yet 
savages have so much skill in hunting and fishing that they would easily 
support themselves where men accustomed only to the usages of civilised life 
would perish. 

With the scanty vocabularies at present available, and lacking many 
important facts connected with the habits of the people of the north, their 
weapons, and their various modes of ornamenting these and the implements 
they use, it is not practicable to do more than offer mere conjectures as to the 
course taken by the natives who first set foot on the soil of Australia. It is 
probable that there were two streams from the Peninsula — one following the 
eastern coast southwards, and one taking a course along the western coast. 
The first, pressed onwards by tribes still migrating southward, may have 
advanced as far as Gippsland ; and the second probably divided near the 
south-eastern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria — one section taking a course 
along the coast westward and southward to West Australia, and thence towards 
King George's Sound ; and the other following the course of the hvers that 
flow southward to Cooper's Creek and the Darling. If there is any truth in 
these conjectures, many facts that are at present inexplicable have some light 
thrown upon them. 

Eyre states that in his opinion it is not improbable that Australia was first 
peopled on its north-western coast, between the parallels of 12'^ and W south 
latitude ; aud that it may be surmised that three grand divisions had branched 
out from the parent tribe, and that from the offsets of these the whole continent 
had been overspread. The first division, he suggests, may have proceeded round 
the north-western, western, and south-western coast, as far as the conmience- 
ment of the Great Australian Bight. The second or central one appears to have 
crossed the continent inland, to the southern coast, striking it about the parallel 
of 134^ east longitude. The third division seems to have followed along the 
bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria to its most south-easterly bight, and then to 
have turned off by the first practicable line in a direction towards Fort Bourke, 
upon the Darling. From these three divisions, Mr. Eyre supposes, varioua 

* Kamilani, Dippil^ and Twrrubul^ hj the Rer. WiUiam Ridley, ILA^ 1866. 


offsets and ramiflcations would have been made from time to time as they 
advanoedy so as to overspread and people by degrees the whole country round 
their respective lines of march ; each offset appearing to retain fewer or more 
of the original habits, customs, &c., of the parent tribe in proportion to the 
distance traversed, or its isolated position, with regard to communication with 
the tribes occupying the main line of route of its original division ; modified 
also, perhaps, in some degree by the local circumstances of the country through 
which it may have spread. 

I have already mentioned that the natives north of the Darling speak a 
dialect like that of the people of the Lower Murray (in Victoria) ; the weapons 
of the natives of West Australia resemble those of the north-west. They have, as 
&kT as I can learn, but one shield, altogether unlike the shields of the south, and 
resembling somewhat that in use in Queensland ; and their spears are like those 
of the people of the north coast. The natives of Perth ornament the wooden 
part of their adzes exactly in the same manner— ^with the like remarkable 
longitudinal grooves — as the people of Queensland. 

The area within which the custom of circumcision prevails, and perhaps also 
the area within which the boomerang is not used, point also to such divisions 
of the streams of immigration as are suggested. 

There is an impression in the minds of many, to which color is given by 
curious coincidences, that the languages of Australia — or rather the mother 
of the languages of Australia — ^may be supposed to have affinity with the 
languages of the Aryan family. Without raising in this place the more 
important question as to whether the Australians are the representatives, iu 
the savage state, of a section of the ancient stock which gave civilization to 
Europe, one may glance at some of the facts which have beeu adduced. That 
these facts have any philological or ethnological value is questionable, but they 
are, to say the least, interesting. The words Nau^rmiy a canoe ; Marai, spirit ; 
Joen, a man; Cobray the head; Tiora, land; Moray, great; Gnara, a knot; Kir^ 
ndjee, a doctor; Ury, ear; Yain, chin; Oura, our; Yaiy yes; YaiVj air; Keh-le^^ 
brightness; Kerreem, a shield; Urdin, straight; Manya, the hand; Yarra^ 
flowing; MaA, to strike; Pilar, a spear; Kalama, a reed; Pidna, the foot; Yun, 
«Boou; Kurrin, enquiring; Poke, a small hole; Wiranffi, bad; Multuwarrin, many 
or much ; Trippin, drenching ; Throkkun, putting ; El, will ; Trentin, tearing ; 
Gratmn, burying in the earth; and Kinka, laugh — are similar to words with 
similar meanings in the languages of the Aryan family. It would be as wrong 
to dismiss these without remark as to lay stress upon them. A greater number 
of words showing the like resemblances might easily be given; and it is for the 
more learned amongst philologists to separate those exhibiting perhaps mere 
accidental coincidences of sound from those that may have been introduced by 
traders from the Malay Peninsula and the islands of the Pacific. 

There has been compiled for this work, from information supplied by the 
Local Guardians of Aborigines, the Surveyor-Gteneral of the colony, and others, 
a list of the native names of the hills, streams, and other natural features of the 
colony. It is not only interesting to preserve the local names as used by the 
Wacks, but information is often conveyed by them which hereafter may be 


nsefol. There are neoeBsarily repetitions in the lists, which in the whole com-* 
prise more than two thousand words, but these could not well be avoided 
without doing injustice to the contributors, and without undertaking the 
responsibility of deciding, perhaps erroneously, in cases where there are dis- 

Any one who will take the trouble to examine a map of Australia will see 
that the greater number of the natural features, as well as the counties, towns, 
and settlements, have received names that sufficiently indicate the class of 
persons who gave them; and it is reaUy not easy to say whether those who 
sought to gain the &vor of persons in power, or the bushmen who used such 
appellations as best conveyed their meaning to the minds of their associates, 
have made the worst choice. There is time yet to remedy the injustice that 
has been done to the interests of the colonists, and that can be effected by 
erasing from the map at least all those names which are similar in sound to 
those associated in the mind with the natural scenery and the cities and towns 
of Europe. Several names — supposed to be native names — have been mutilated 
or so altered as to be no longer of any significance; and if the information I 
have gathered helps in any way towards an amendment in these and a change 
in others, it will be a source of satisfaction to many. 

The records which I have preserved of the native names of a number of the 
trees and shrubs of the colony furnish a large number of euphonious words, 
from which it would be easy to select those most appropriate to any given 
locality. From the manner in which the lists have been prepared, it is 
practicable to identify nearly all the plants. The naturalist will recognise the 
utility of a work of this kind ; and any one who lives in the country and takes 
any interest in the indigenous vegetation will not be slow to avail himself of 
the help which he will derive from the pages that refer to this subject. 

The names were written down exactly as the blacks pronounced them; and 
the botanical names were added by the Government Botanist. The portfolios 
in which the plants were placed when they were collected, the labels pasted on 
each cover, and the specimens, are all in excellent order and well preserved. 

Hereafter this collection will be highly valued. All those who are living 
in parts of the country that are frequented by the natives could with ease 
make similar collections; and it is certain that the Government Botanist would 
gladly examine the plants and frunish information respecting them. 

Much light might be thrown on the principles which guided the natives in 
naming localities if the native words for the trees, shrubs, &c., and for the 
natural features of the country, were written down; and it is in the power of 
every educated person who comes into contact with the blacks to aid in this 
work. In a very short time the older blacks who possess the requisite know- 
ledge will have died, and it will be impossible to obtain any such records 
for other parts of Australia as those I have preserved for some portions of 

All the vocabularies and all the lists under the head of Language, except 
one, relate to Victoria. One is a short vocabulary, compiled by Mr. Henry 
Withers, of Wagga Wagga, in New South Wales, and it is inserted both 


because it serves for comparison and because the information Mr. Withers 
collected and forwarded to me in manuscript should not be lost. 

Wagga Wagga is situate on the river Murrumbidgee, and lies about eighty 
miles north of Bamawartha. Many of the words collected by Mr. Withers 
coincide with words of similar meaning in use on the Upper Murray, but are 
unlike those of the Lower Murray. Man at Wagga Wagga is Gooen; at Tan- 
gambalanga, Gerree, Hand at Wagga Wagga is Murra; at Tangambalanga 
and Barnawartha, Murrah. Foot, Wagga Wagga, Geenong (Jeenong?); Barna- 
wartha, Jenrumg. Ear, Wagga Wagga, Woother; Bamawartha, Mvtha. Eye, 
Wagga Wagga, Mill; Barnawartha, Mill. Teeth, Wagga Wagga, Erong; 
Bamawartha (mouth), Erang, Hair, Wagga Wagga, Ourang; Bamawartha, 
Huran. Blood, Wagga Wagga, Goohun; Tangambalanga, Koroo. Bone, Wagga 
Wagga, Thubbul; Bamawartha, ThubaL Night, Wagga Wagga, Booroonthun; 
Barnawartha, Burandong. Sun, Wagga Wagga, Eri; Barnawartha (day) 
Erah. Fire, Wagga Wagga, Wing; Barnawartha, Wanga. The native word 
set down in many vocabularies for "day" is really the word for "sim," and 
the word for " sun," in like manner, is often that which means " day " or 
" light " or " heat." There is seldom any mistake made in obtaining the right 
word for " night," that is to say for " darkness." I believe the natives have 
really no words exactly equivalent to " day " and " night." 

The natives of Tasmania were darker, shorter, more stoutly built, and 
generally less pleasing in aspect than the people of the continent. Their hair 
was woolly and crisp, and some bore a likeness to the African negro. Their 
aspect was different from that of the Australians. In their form, their color, 
and their hair they were rather Papuan than Australian. Many words in 
their language, however, coincide with words in the dialects of King George's 
Sound, the Qulf of St. Vincent, and the soutL-eastem parts of the continent ; 
and it might be assumed, therefore, that the connection between the inhabi- 
tants of the island and the continent was clearly established. But we must 
not overlook the Papuan affinities of the Tasmanian dialects. Many words are 
the same as those in the languages spoken in New Caledonia, in Mallicollo, 
and in other islands of the Melanesian division. 

In all respects their condition was lower than that of the Australians, yet 
they were not altogether unlike in their habits to some tribes of the interior. 
They knew nothing of the boomerang, the throwing-stick, the shield, or the 
WeetHJveet. Their weapons were mde wooden spears, and sticks used as clubs 
or as missUes. Their stone implements were chipped fragments of cheriy 
rock, which were not ground or polished, nor were they fitted with wooden 

like the natives of Cooper's Creek, they threw stones at their enemies. 

In all their customs there was much to remind one of the practices of the 
Australians. There were some ceremonies attendant on the initiation of young 
males into the rights and privileges of manhood ; there were some restrictions 
on marriage ; they mourned their dead, and disposed of the bodies by interring 
them, placing them in trees, or burning them ; and they had dances like the 
corrobborees of the natives of the continent. Their superstitions too, and one 


or two of their myths^ bear a resemblance to those of the Anstraliand. Some 
kinds of food were prohibited ; they had a strong objection to eating fat ; they 
carried aboat with them the bones of deceased relatives ; and they belieyed in 
and practised sorcery. 

Their ornaments and their ntensils^ though few in number, were not in-*- 
ferior to those of the people of the mainland. 

They were not altogether destitute of the power of invention. They produced 
fire by twirling the upright stick ; and they constructed rude vessels, in which 
they could cross rivers and arms of the sea. 

Whether Australia was once peopled by a race of which the Tasmanians 
were a remnant will probably never be known. Their stone implements, the 
only material evidences we could have of their presence, are of such a character 
as to be easily overlooked if found. They would be regarded, probably by even 
the skilful, as mere accidental fragments of rock. They differ but slightly 
from the implements of the West Australians; and tbes^ no one would 
recognise as the work of men's hands. 

Mr. K H. Davies thinks that there can be no doubt as to the origin of the 
Tasmanians. He believes that they were scions of the continental tribes ; and 
he points to their habits and their weapons as proofs. He considers that the 
chain of islands extending across the extremity of Bass's Straits forms a com-* 
paratively easy means of communication. From the circumstance, however, of 
the name for water amongst the western tribes being similar to that used by 
the natives near Cape Leeuwin, it is, in his opinion, extremely probable that 
the latter furnished the first inhabitants for the western portion of Van Die« 
men's Land. And this, he adds, is rendered the mope likely from the peculiar 
form of the south-western coast of N^w Holland, as a oanoe driven to sea from 
the vicinity of King George's Sound would, from the prevailing winds and 
currents, be apt to reach the western part of Van Diemen's Land. 

There is another theory propounded by one of the most distinguished of 
living philologists :-.- 

Speaking of the vocabulary of the Louisiade, as compiled by Macgillivray^ 
and its collation with lists of words from the Solomon Isles, MalliooUo, Tanna^ 
Erromanga, and Annatom, and Cook and La Billardiire's vocabularies of New 
Caledonia, Dr. Latham says that the latter, as far as the very scanty data go, 
supply the closest resemblance to the Louisiade dialects from the two New 
Caledonian vocabularies; and he adds, '^New Caledonia was noticed in the 
Appendix to the Voyage of the Fly as apparently having closer philological 
affinities with Van DiemeTCs Land than that country had with Australia ; an 
apparent fact which induced me to write as follows : — ' A proposition concern- 
ing the Tasmanian language exhibits an impression rather than a deUberate 
opinion. Should it, however, be confirmed by future researches, it will at 
once explain the points of physical contrast between the Tasmanian tribes and 
those of Australia that have so often been insisted on. It is this — ^that the 
affinities of language between the Tasmanian and the New Caledonian are 
stronger than those between the Australian and Tasmanian. This indicates 
that the stream of population for Van Diemen's Land ran round Australia 


rather than across it»' Be this as it may, the remark, with our present scanty 
materials, is at best but a suggestion — a suggestion, however, which would 
account for the physical appearance of the Tasmanian being more New Cale* 
donian than Australian." 

That the island was first peopled by some members of the dark-skinned 
populations of the north is beyond doubt ; but what was the line of migration 
can, perhaps, be gathered only from the character of the language, and we 
inay be misled by the only vocabularies now extant. They were written down 
long subsequent to the colonization of the land by the whites, and it may be 
supposed after the blacks had had communication with natives of other parts 
of Australasia and the South Seas. 

We cannot say how it was peopled nor when it was peopled. 

If Dr. Latham's theory be accepted, it may have maintained a population 
long anterior to the peopling of the continent. 

There was probably several times, but certainly once in the later Tertiary 
period, a land connection with Australia. 

The formations on the chain of islands, and the fossil and living fauna 
and flora of the island and the continent, furnish evidences of the changes 
which have occurred. 

The Thylacyrms and Sarcophilus ursimis both live abundantly in Tasmania^ 
but neither of them has been discovered on the continent ; where, however, 
their remains have been identified by Professor McCoy with certainty in the 
cavern deposits and Pleistocene clays mingled with those of the extinct Dipr(h 
todofij ThylacoleOj &c. 

In the Pleistocene period, animals abounding in Tasmania with very re« 
Btricted powers of locomotion or swimming were as conmion in Victoria as in 
Tasmania ; but at the present day neither the Sarcophilus nor Thylacynus is 
found on the continent in the living state. The wombat of Tasmania is totally 
different from the living wombat of Victoria, and the Pleistocene wombats are 
different from both. The commonest Pleistocene kangaroos are entirely extinct 
species. It would seem that the smaller carnivorous mammals referred to 
became extinct on the continent long before the modem period ; — ^the Dasyurus 
maculaiMS (a third abundant large marsupial carnivore) occurring very rarely 
on the continent, but abounding in Tasmania in the living condition with the 
other two at the present time. At the same (Pleistocene) period the great 
plant-eating Diprotodon and Nototherium lived in numbers on the continent, 
but apparently never reached Tasmania. 

Some parrots, honey-eaters, owls, and several other birds with considerable 
powers of flight are restricted to Tasmania, and a large number of the insects 
found in the island are different from those of Victoria, while perhaps three- 
fourths of the living fauna seem to be identical. 

Dr. Hooker tells us that the primary feature of the Tasmanian flora is its 
identity in all its main characters with the Victorian ; and that in one part of 
Victoria — ^Wilson's Promontory — ^the vegetation is peculiarly Tasmanian. He 
refers also to the fact, clearly established on geological doUa^ of Tasmania 
having once formed a continuous southward extension of Victoria^ and that 


as Britain was peopled with continental plants before the formation of the 
channel, so Tasmania and Victoria possessed their present flora before they 
were separated by Bass's Straits. 

Was Tasmania peopled when there was a land connection between the 
island-continent and Tasmania? Not probably prior to that period. Daring 
the Pleistocene period, when the land connection existed, the forests and plains 
of the continent supported huge mammals, which seem to have disappeared 
some time anterior to the peopling of the southern parts of it As already 
stated, no remains of native art have been found associated with the almost 
unaltered bones of these now extinct creatures ; but if the continent had been 
inhabited by a race in a condition as low as that of the Tasmanians, they could 
have left no such traces of their wanderings as would be easily discoverable. 

It is difficult to believe that the Tasmanians were scions of the continental 
tribes. Their physical character stands out prominently as an objection to the 
theoiy. If Tasmania was peopled from Australia, it was at .a time when 
Australia supported a race that in feature, character, and language was Tas- 
manian; and we must, therefore, regard the race that now inhabits the 
continent as intrusive. What may be urged against this suggestion I know 
not. There is one error, however, to guard against — that is, to suppose that 
any land has necessarily been peopled by the route which appears to be the 
most obvious, the least difficult, and the shortest. And this brings us to the 
consideration of Dr. Latham's speculations, which have a greater value than 
perhaps he himself attaches to them. 

The length of time during which the Tasmanians were entirely cut off from 
anything like communication with the people of the mainland is marked 
amongst them by no such improvements in arts and arms as have dis- 
tinguished the Aborigines of Australia and New Caledonia. The former were 
apparently stationary, the latter to some extent progressive. 

|hs»t£al d^ftaradtr. 


Vbbt different accounts have been given by voyagers and explorers relative 
to the color and fonn of the natives of Australia* Some have represented 
them as coal-blacky like the negro, with bottle-noses, spare limbs, and ferocious 
countenances ; others as models of symmetry, having a complexion scarcely so 
dark as to conceal a blush ; and the greater number regard them simply as 
" blacks," with such conformations generally as belong to the African. 

They differ in appearance in different parts of the continent, and this may 
account, in a measure, for the different statements made by observers. They 
differ from one another in stature, bulk, and color probably as much and no 
more than the inhabitants of Great Britain, Germany, France, and Italy differ 
from one another. Those that have abundance of food are tall and stout, and 
exhibit well-developed figures ; and such as maintain a precarious existence in 
the arid tracts which the larger animals do not frequent are small, meagre, thin- 
limbed, and most unpleasing in aspect. 

I sought information, during the year 1870, relative to the height, weight, 
and chest-measurement of the Aboriginal natives of Victoria, and I have com- 
piled the following tables from the figures supplied by the Managers of the 
several Stations in the colony : — 

Height, Weight, Ac, of Aboriginal Natives at Coranderrk, Upper Yarra^ 
from information furnished by Mr. John Green : — 













ft. In. 

ft. In. 




ft. In. 

ft. in. 


Tommy Banfleld 


5 6i 

3 9 


Samson - 


5 4i 

2 9 




5 7 

3 2| 


Martin • 


6 5 

2 8 


Peter Honter - 


5 8i 



M. BeU - 


5 2 

2 9 


Redman - 


6 6 

3 4 


McRea - - 


5 6| 

a 1 


Willie Hobflon 


4 U 

2 1 




6 8i 

3 4i 



Tommy Amot • 


6 &i 

2 Hi 





6 9 

2 11} 


EUza - . 





Johnny Philipi - 


6 61 

2 111 


Maggie - 



2 9 




4 10 

3 2| 




5 6 





Borat - 


4 9 

2 10 




5 5 

8 1 


Norah - 


5 2 

2 10 


Jemmy Barker - 


5 9 

3 3 




6 2 





6 10) 

3 4 


Annie - 


5 1 2 10| 




Height, Weight, &c., of Aboriginal Natives at Lake Hindmarsh from infor- 
mation fdrnished by the Bev. A. Hartmann : — 









Blacks. — Men, 


ft Id. 


Blacks. — Women, 


ft In. 


PhUlip - 


6 8 


Diana .... 


4 lOf 


Thomas ... 


5 6| 


Betsy ... 


6 1 


DaTid - - - 


( 8 


Coyle ... 
Ueniy . . - 



5 7 


Jackson ... 


6 Si 




5 0| 



Ida ... 


4 114 


Rebecca ... 


5 6 


Susan ... 


4 111 


Topay . - - 


5 8 


Height, Weight, Ac, of Aboriginal Natives at Lake Condah from infor- 
mation furnished by Mr. Joseph Shaw : — 









Blacks.— J/mi. 





Blacks. — Women, 


ft In. 


Billy King - - 





Susanna ... 


5 1 


John Green 





Mary Robinson - 




BiUyGoratt - 





Mary Gorrie 


4 10 


John Sutton - 





Old Kitty . - . 


4 11 


Jemmy Robinson - 





01dFatCk)mer - 




BiUy Wilson - - 





Jemmy Field - 






Billy Gorrie - 











Johnnie Dutton - 




Old Jack 

Mrs. Wilson - 
Lucy Sutton - 









Hannah King 
Ellen Mullet 


5 6 
5 2^ 


Height, Weight, Ac, of Aboriginal Natives at Lake Wellington, in Gippsh 
land, from information furnished by the Rev. F, A. Hagenauer : — 









Blacks. — Men, 


ft. In. 


Blacks. — Women, 


ft in. 


Charles Foster 


6 1 


Jenny - . - 


5 1 


Nathaniel Pepper - 


5 6| 


Louise ... 


5 4 


Bobby Brown - 


5 4f 


Caroline ... 


5 2k 


James Clark - 


5 4 


Ada Chirk - 


4 11 


Harry Stephen 


5 5 


Bessy - - - 


4 Hi 


Ngarry • - - 


5 6 


Rhoda ... 




Donald « . . 


5 8} 



Height, Weight, Ac, of Aboriginal Natives at Lake Tyers, in Gippsland, 
from information furnished by the Bev. John Buhner : — 


Blacks. — Men. 
Tommj Johnson (young man) 

Benjamin Jennings (young man) - 

William McDougall (young man) - 

Toby (yoxmg man) - - - • 

Charley Buchanan - - - • 
McLeod ------ 

Charley Anderson - - - - 

WiUiam Elanner - - - - 

Dick Cooper - - - - • 

King Charley - - - • - 

BinytheBuU - - • - 

Dan (old man) «. . - * 
Billy Jumbuck (old man) 

Jackey Jackey - - - - 

Charley Blair (young man) - 



about 17 
about SO 
about 28 













ft. in. 
5 6| 













It appears, from these tables, that the average height of forty-nine adult 
male blacks is 5 ft. 5| in. — ^the greatest height being 6 ft. 1 in., and the least 
5 ft. 1 in.; and that the average weight is 137f lbs. nearly — the greatest weight 
being 214 lbs., and the least 112 lbs. 

The average height of twenty-five adnlt black females is 5 ft. — ^the greatest 
being 5 ft. 4 in., and the least 4 ft. 9 in. The average weight of the women is 
114^ lbs. (nearly) — ^the greatest being 148 lbs., and the least 78 lbs. 

The half-castes appear to great advantage, as compared with the natives of 
pnre blood. Though the records relate only to a small number, they are never- 
theless highly suggestive. The average height of the half-caste men is 5 ft. 
10^ in., and the average weight 160 lbs. ; and the average height of the women 
is 5 ft. 3| in., and the average weight 140 lbs. 

These results are in accordance with what one sees in a large mixed assem- 
blage of blacks and half-castes. The latter are invariably larger, better formed, 
and more ftdly developed than the blacks ; i^nd some of the boys — showing but 
little of the blood of the mother — ^are better formed and more pleasing in 
appearance than many children bom of white parents. When they grow up, 
however, they usually become coarse and heavy. 

It will be noted also, on examining the tables, that the height and weight 
of the men and women in Gippsland are greater than the averages ; that the 
height and weight of the men at Coranderrk are considerably above the 
averages ; and that the women at that station, though of average stature, are 
much heavier than the women of the western parts of the colony. The natives 
at CJoranderrk, however, having been brought from all parts of Victoria, are not 
representative of any particular tribes, as are those at Lake Hindmarsh, Lake 
Condah, and Gippsland* 


Dr. Stmtt gives the following MeajsurementB of NativeB of the River Marray 
at Echuca : — 




Meeenm Toand 
the chest. 


Johnny Johnny - . - 



Larry - - - - - 
Billy Toole . - - - 
Hurray - - - - - 
King John - . . • 

■ton* I1». 



9 4 
10 10 


11 18 

ft. In. 
ft 71 

ft ft 

ft 41 

5 4 

ft 81 

ft 41 

ft 61 

ft 9f 

4 101 

ft. In. 
8 10 

8 10 

8 8 

8 81 

S Of 

8 01 

a 111 

8 1 
8 8 

He adds that ^'No other woman could be persnaded to be weighed or 
measured ;" and that ^Hhey are a well-proportioned race."* 

It is impracticable to obtain complete measurements of the bodies of the 
natives of Victoria. They are now clothed — and having regard to the circum- 
stances under which they are living, it has been deemed unadvisable, even in 
the interests of science, to prosecute investigations which might raise in their 
minds feelings of disgust. I have therefore no very valuable information to 
give in regard to this part of the subject. Some measurements have been made 
from photographs of wild blacks with the following results : — 

Ground to calf of leg (thickest port) 

Ground to centre of cap of knee 

Ground to fork ------ 

Ground to umbilicuB .... 

Ground to chin ..... 

Ground to tips of fingers (the hand being 

placed against the thigh) 
Length of arm from point of shoulder to 

Length of arm from elbow to tips of fingers 






























In the spaces maiked * meaenrements were not poiilble. 

The bodj^ in each case is supposed to be divided into fifty parts, measuring 
from the ground to the vertex, and the proportions are represented by the 

Though the utmost care was taken in ascertaining the proportions of the 
several parts of the frame, and though the photographs were excellent, and the 
positions well chosen, these measurements cannot be regarded as strictly 

* Beparl of th§ Select CommitUe of the Legislative CouncU^ 18ft8-9. 




MeaBurements made in the same manner of two Europeans, one an adult 
male and the other a yonng man, give the fignres following, namely : — 

Toimg Maa. 

Ground to calf of leg (thickest part) ------ 

Groimd to centre of cap of knee ------ 

Ground to fork ---------- 

Groimd to nmbilicits ----.-•.- 

Ground to chin -----•--.- 

Ground to tipa of fingers (the hand being placed against the thigh) 
Length of arm from point of shonlder to elbow - - - - 

Length of arm from elbow to tips of fingers - . - - 

These measurements, few as they are, seem to show that the arms and legs of 
the male blacks are longer than those of Europeans. Collins relates that 
Capt. Paterson found up the Hawkesbury natives who appeared to him to have 
longer legs and arms than those of the natives of Port Jackson and the coast, 
due, it was suggested, to their being obliged from infancy, in order to gain a 
living, to climb trees, hanging by their arms and resting on their feet at the 
Utmost stretch of the body.* 

Mr. William Skene gives the following measurements of three blacks living 
at Portland Bay, who, he thinks, are rather under the sizes of some tribesf : — 



Bound the shoulders - . - 
From shoulder to palm of hand - 


Girth of thigh (above trousers) - 
Girth of waist . . - - 


25 to SO years 
5 ft. 7iin. 
44 in. 
38 in. 
82 in. 
19 in. 
32 in. 


50 years (about) 
5 ft. 6 in. 
41 in. 
31 in. 
281 in- 
SOi in. 


25 years (about) 
6ft. Sin. 

29} in. 

29 in. 

20 in. 

834 in. 

CoLOB, Haib, etc. 

The color of the natives of Victoria is a chocolate-brown, in some nearly 
answering to No. 41 of M. Broca's color-types, in others more nearly approach- 
ing No. 42 ; the eyes are very dark-brown (almost black), corresponding nearly 
to No. 1 in M. Broca's types ; the "white of the eye" is in all cases yellowish, 
the tint being deeper in some than in others ; the hair of the head is so deep a 
brown as to appear in many lights jet-black, and jet-black in some it is. The 
beard is black. The hair of the head is usually abundant, and waved or in 
large curls. The beard is full, and generally crisp. The brown color of the hair 
of the head is most often seen in that of the women and girls. The hair growing 
on the back of the boys and girls is very fine and soft, and in color brown (not 
very dark). 

* The EngUah Cohny in Ntw South Waiesyhy Lieut.-CoL Collins, 1804. 
t Extort of the Select Committee of the Legislative Couneil, 1858-9, p. 227. 


Mr. Cosmo Newbery, B.Sc, has made a number of careftil microscopic 
examinations of seven samples of hair from the following individnalsy namely: — 
Half-caste woman, "Ralla" (head); half-caste man, "Parker" (head); black 
man, "Wonga" (head); black woman, "Maria" (head); black girl (head); 
boy, aged seven years (back) ; girl, aged seven years (back) ; and he reports 
that, after having compared them with a number of samples taken from Euro- 
peans, he has &iled to detect any special characters. 

The bodies of some of the men and boys are said to be entirely covered or 
almost entirely covered with short soft hair. 

Dr. Strutt, speakmg of the natives of Echuca, says that the complexion is 
" a dark chocolate-brown, approaching to black ; hair, black, rather coarse and 
curling, not woolly ; black eyes ; thick nose, rather rounded ; lips rather thick, 
but not projecting."* 

The late Dr. Ludwig Becker, an artist and a man of science, thus writes : — 
"The prevailing complexion is a chocolate-brown. Hair, jet-black, and when 
combed and oiled, falls in beautiful ringlets down the cheeks and neck. Beard, 
black, strong, curly ; eyes, deep-brown, black, the white of a light-yellowish 

The hair of the head, in both men and women, is coarser and stronger than 
the hair of Europeans, and it is usually far more abundant. 

I have never seen in any native of Victoria that peculiar bluish or leaden 
tint which in some lights appears so distinctly in the complexion of the Maori 
of New Zealand and the lighter^colored races of Polynesia. The eye and the 
skin of the Australian exhibit invariably warm tints, however deep may be the 

Some children of full-blooded blacks are nearly of the same color as Euro- 
pean children when bom, and all of them are generally light>-red.t As regards 
form, they do not differ very much from children of other races. But when they 
arrive at the age of two, four, six, or eight years, they are generally very dark, 
and in form differ much from Europeans. The head is generally well shaped 
and well placed, the eyes are large, and the body is well formed, though the 
limbs are long, and in some individuals thin, and the face is not agreeable. 
The under-jaw is large, and the lips are heavy and hanging. Some children 
are prognathous to such a degree as to present a profile anything but pleasing. 
The cheeks of both males and females are hairy in the places where the beard 
grows in man ; and the neck and in some the back are covered with short hair, 
always thickest in those parts which in most Europeans are shown obscurely 
by streaks of hair coming down the neck from the head, and following the 
line of the vertebrsB. The arms and hands exhibit a thin covering of coarse 

Little boys of five and six years of age show sometimes as much hair on the 
cheeks as a European of seventeen or eighteen, but the hair is not crisp and 
curly as the hair of a beard generally is, but straight and clinging closely to the 

♦ Beport of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council^ 1858-9. 

t Mr. John Oreen says, «The baby ia like a white when newly born, and pale ; bat in the course 
of a few hours it becomes dark } and in two weeks or so becomes aa black as its parents." 


face. It is of the same character as the hair on the arms or hands, but thicker 
and closer.* I am not acquainted with a single case of albinism amongst the 
natives of Australia. 


There is little doubt that there is a peculiar odour attached to the persons 
of the natiyes even when they are clean in their habits. Some have a most 
offensiye odour, due to their want of cleanliness and to their sleeping in their 
clothes. It is a different odour from that of Europeans of filthy habits, and as 
strong, or perhaps stronger. Dr. Strutt says that several of tiie natives have 
no peculiar odour when well washed and clean ; others, however, in hot weather 
have a very perceptible odour. 

The late Dr. Ludwig Becker noticed a peculiar odour, not depending on 
want of cleanliness, and resembling that of the negro, but not so strong. It 
appeared to him ^^as if phosphorus was set free during the process of per- 
spiration. It is very likely tibis odour which enables the horses to discover 
the proximity of Aborigines, and thus saving many times the members of 
exploring expeditions from being surprised. Leichhardt, Gregory, and others 
describe sufficiently the mode in which the horse shows its uneasiness."! 

Cattle and dogs, as well as horses, exhibit alarm when they are approached 
by a black for the first time, and when his vicinity could be known only from 
the odour. 


The sight and hearing of the natives are excellent, but it is questionable 
whether as regards touch, taste, and smell they are the equals of Europeans. 
Short-sight is not known amongst the people of Victoria. 

Many of the natives are skilfril trackers, and their services are frequently 
required by the police, who speak highly of their quickness and intelligence. 
The native trackers have on many occasions rendered important services to the 
Gt)vemment, and when any one is lost in the bush the whites rely with the 
utmost confidence on the sagacity and skill of the " black-tracker." 

Capt. Grey relates how his watch was recovered by a native. It had fallen 
from his pocket when galloping through the bush. " The ground we had passed 
over," says Grey, " was badly suited for the purpose of tracking, and the scrub 
was thick ; nevertheless, to my delight and surprise, within the period of half 
an hour my watch was restored to my pocket. This feat of Kaiber's surpassed 
anything of the sort I had previously seen performed by the natives."} 

" Their sight," says Collins, " is peculiarly fine ; indeed their existence very 
often depends upon the accuracy of it ; for a short-sighted man (a misfortune 

* **Boj9 — ^full-blooded — ^begin to show a beard at the age of fifteen ; and hare a strong beard 
when nineteen, Half-caates show a beard at serenteen, and have not a strong beard nntil they are 
about twenty-four years old. There are several fuU-blooded children on the Coranderrk Station from 
six to ten years of age with hair on their backs one inch long and more, and as close as it can sit. 
There is also a third-caste white boy, about twelre years of age, with the same kind of hair on the 
back."— ifiS., Mr. John Green, 

t R^ort of the Select CommiUee of the Legislative Cbunct/, 1868-9. 

X NorihrWeet and Western Australia^ toL x., p. 315. 


unknown among them^ and not yet introdnoed by fiBushion, nor relieyed by the 
nse of a glass) would never be able to defend himself from their spears, which 
are thrown with ftiwAyJng force and velocity/' * 

Physical Powsbs. 

Many of the natives have great strength in the arms and shoulders, and 
the manner in which they throw the spear, the boomerang, and the fwrit^waU 
shows that they can exert their strength to the best advantage. But their 
hands are small, and, as a rule, they are not capable of performing such heavy 
labors as a white man. They are soon fiitigued; and the mind, in sympathy 
with the body, disinclines them to continuous labor of any kind. 

In their natural state they were accustomed to the use of their weapons 
only ; hunting and fighting were their employments. The women carried the 
burdens,' and did the most of the work that was to be done. 

They are good walkers, they can run very £BLst, and jump to an amazing 
height; but when they have to travel day after day, they soon show that in 
endurance they are not the equals of Europeans. This, at any rate, is the 
impression left on the minds of many who have had to travel on foot with the 
natives. No doubt a strong and healthy native would exhibit superiority to 
any untrained European, both as regards speed and endurance ; but a strong 
white man, accustomed to walk fast and far, would soon outstrip the native. 

They ride well and sit often graceftdly, and manage a horse with temper 
and judgment ; but it has been remarked by those accustomed to ride with 
the natives that they wUl never put a horse at a fence. Whether they are 
deficient in courage or whether it is because they find no pleasure in the 
exercise is not known. 

Using thk Fkst and Toks. 

The natives use their toes in dragging their spears, when they wish to 
conceal their weapons, and they use them also in ascending trees, in such a 
manner as to suggest that the joints of the great toe are more pliable and the 
muscles more under the command of the will than is the case with Europeans. 
The women also make use of the great toe of the right foot when they are 
twining rushes for their baskets, and it is believed there is some reason to 
suppose that the great toe is opposable.! 

They use their feet, too, in many ways. A man will draw up his fi)ot and 
use it as a rest when he is shaping a piece of wood with his hatchet. 

* English Colony in New South Wales, 1804» p. 859. 

t ** They are rerj expert at stealing with their toes, and while engaged in taUdng with any ooe^ 
will, without moringy pick up the smalleBt thing Arom the ground. Bj means of their toes, they 
will also carry as many as six long spears through the grass without allowing any part of them to 
be seen. Some time after this I had an opportunity of testing the nimbleness of tiieir toes. It waa 
with a Murray black. I told him what I wanted to see, and he was yery willing to display hia 
deremess. I put a sixpence on the ground and placed him by my side. Watching his operations, 
I saw him pick up the thin coin with his great and first toe, just as we should with thumb and 
forefinger ; bend his leg up behind him, deposit the money in his hand, and then pass it into mine, 
without moTing his body in the rery slightest degree from the rerticaL"— f fijufert Land and Sturt 
Land, by W. R. H. Jessop, M.A., rol. u., p. 888. 

• • tr 

physical chaeactbe. » 


Two Datives of Gippsland — Booro-bul-wa and Quar-tan-grook, his wife 

(Fig, 1), are characteristic types of the natives of the eaatem parts of Victoria. 

Boom-bul-wa was rather above the average height, and was a strong well-made 

man. Botii the man and woman were fail-blooded blacks. 

The portraits shown in Fig. 2 are those of natives of different parts of 
the colony. The woman in mourning, and the woman and child, are natives of 

the Western district (HopldnB Eiver) ; the girl with the raised scars on her 
breast and shoulders, the boy to the left of the central fignre, and the man and 
woman immediately below, belong to the river Yarra Yarra. The last-named — 


Wongo, the principal man of the Tarra tribe, and his wife — are two well- 
known natives. Wonga has a mild disposition, and is always gentle and 
coDTteoos. He is a good speaker, and has mnch influence with his people. 
The man to the right of the central figure is Nathaniel, generally regarded as 
highly intelligent. He was educated at the L^e Hindmarsh Station. The 
man holding a spear is Whyate, a black from the western coast. He is of a 
type that is by no means common. The central figure shows a native in 
ordinary attire. 

The likeness in profile (Fig. 3) is that of a fiill-blooded black of the 
ordinary type. The form and expression 
are strongly characteristic of the natives of 
the south. The portrait of a woman (Fig. 4) 
shows the more marked features that are 
commonly found amongst the females of 
the Yarra. These portraits exhibit with suf- 
ficient distinctness the general character of 
the features of the natives of Victoria. The 
eyebrows are broad and prominent, over- 
hanging deep-set and not very small eyes ; 
the head narrows rapidly towards the ver- 
tex ; the month is large, and arched, as if 
the corners were purposely drawn down ; 
^ the lips are fulL The under-jaw of the 
males is, in many instancea, massive and 
'"*■ •■ square ; in others, owing to the size and 

shape of the mouth and teeth, it is retreating. The nose is depressed at the 
upper part, and wide at the base, and in some th'e wings are elevated; the 
space between the nose and the mouth is great, and the alveolar process is 
much developed. The cheek-bones are high. The 
teeth ore large and regular, and when set, meet 
closely, the cusps being usually worn off, owing 
to their modes of cookery and feeding. In many 
the neck is short and pretty thick, but thin necks 
are not uncommon. 

When in repose, the erpression of the coun- 
tenance is not pleasing. It is rather sullen than 
melancholy. But when anything occurs to arouse 
the curiosity of the native, his &ce lights up at 
' FIG. «. once, and the sour, morose expression gives place 

to one that is fer from disagreeable. He can indicate by his features discontent, 
dislike, hatred, affection, satisfaction, curiosity, and appreciation of humour, 
with unmistakable effect In like manner he can show by his gait and his 
gestures fear, respect, obedience, courage, defiance, and contempt. Those who 
have hved long amongst the natives and are acquainted with their habits are 
not readier than those who see them for the first time in comprehending what 
is expressed by their attitudes. 


The nativea of Briabane (Qaeensland) differ a good deal in appearance. The 
accompanying drawings (Figs. 5 and 6) represent the ordinary Australian type. 
That of the man was adected becauee oi the extraordinary character of the 
scars on his back. 

I have seen some blacks from the north, and I never could detect any 
very striking difference in their aspect. Generally, they looked like Victorian 
blacks ; but amongst the large number of photographs I have received of 
natives of the north-east coast, it is easy t« put aside many that certainly 
bear no very close resemblance to the ordinary Australian native. The hair 
of some is frizzled, and the beard is scanty, appearing only as a small mous- 
tache, and a slight frizzled taft on the chin. The eyebrows do not project 
very mach, the nose is nearly straight, and not very broad at the base, and the 
brow is rounder and smoother than that commonly seen. The hair of some of 
tiie girls falls in long, very small ringlets; bat the &ces of nearly all the females 
are of the nsoal Australian type. Hie marked differences of featore appear only 
amongst the males. 

It was intended that portraits showing the types of natives of aU the islands 
adjacent to Australia, and those of the negro, and the natives of India, should 
have been given here, in order that the reader might have compared them with 
those of the Australians; but owing to the baste with which this volume has been 
completed, this part of my design is unfulfilled. A few portraits accompany 
those of the Australians ; and as these, as well as the latter, have been carefully 
drawn fi^nn excellent photographs, it is hoped that these fresh materials for a 
prc^r study of the races they represent will be appreciated by ethnologists. 

The Australian natives have been harshly dealt with in nearly all the works 
that treat of ethnology. In many their &cea are made to appear as like those 
of baboons aa possible ; and though it must be confessed that, as a rule, neither 
the men nor the women have pleasing countenances, they are as thoroughly 
htuuan in their featnies and expression as the natives of Great Britain. 


At first they appear to resemble eacli other very mnch ; and a stranger, even 
after seeing them frequently, is often onable to distingruflh one man from another. 

Thongh unlike the of Victoria, William 

Anstralian nativeB in I^uinj, whose portrait 

many respects, the is given here (Fig. 7), 

Tasmanians stiU ex- and trbo is described 

hihit in their coante- as the last of the Tas- 

nances a resemblance mauians, is not nnlike 

to them ; and years many natives that are 

ago, when it would seen in the eastern 

have been possible Ut parts of Australia. The 

have made a selection eyebrows do not pro- 

from a large namher, ject mncb, the head is 

it is probable that roond, the hair is friz- 

some individuals could zled, and, bnt for the 

have been found not fall heard, he might be 

differing at all in fea- mistaken for a native 

tures from the rather nor. of the north-east«m 

lighter-colored natives coast. 

At the time the photograph from which the wood-cut is drawn was taken, 
William Lanny was 26 years of age. He was a native of the Coal River tribe. 

There are marked differences of form in ihe head and features of the two 
races in New Zealand — the Maori, and the Pokerekahu or black KuTnara.* 
Hale, the ethnologist who accompanied the United States Exploring Expedition 
in 1838-42, seemed, however, to disbelieve in this distinction, regarding the 
yellow Polynesians and the so-called Papuans as the same ; the one class being 
idle and luxurious, and the other workers, half-starved and ill-clad. That there 
is a Btrikmg difference in appearance is admitted ; and thongh it is true that 
in many of the islands in the South Seas different modes of life largely affect 
tlie appearance of the natives — the chiefs being tall, well-made men, of a 
light complexion, and the workers smaller, thinner, and dark in color — it is 
conclusively proved by the Rev, Richard Taylor that the Melanesian preceded 
the Maori in the occupation of New Zealand. 

The accompanying portraits of New Zealanders have been selected with the 
view of affording some information on this point. Fig. 8 represents a native 
chief, Tomati Hapimana Wharehinaki, whose family name was, he said, Tapuika, 
and that of the land he once owned, Moketu. When I saw him, in November 
1870, he was about fifly-aeven years of age. He is, I believe, now dead. His 
head was small, his forehead narrow, his eyebrows rather prominent, but, on 
looking at the full face, not coarse ; his skin liglit-brown, and his eyes a not very 
dark-brown. His hair was soft, dry, and black in color. He was very talkative, 
and used odd little gestures to eke out his meaning. Though he had been an 
actor in a theatre, and had lived long with Englishmen, he spoke the English 
language with difficulty. Many words he could not pronounce at all ; and 
though belonging to tlie better clnss of his jieople, he appeared to me to be far 


inferior to the AnstTaliaD in the power of acquiriag langoa^, and in intelligence 
generally. In talking to a clever Australian native one feela that one in 
speaking to a person who has all the facnlties (though nndeveloped) of a 
European, and he is generally qaiet and dignified in his manner; but the 

Polyneaian, the Malay, and eome others, have always seemed to me to belong 
to races having little or nothing in common with the European. 

Tomati Hapimana's skin showed in some lights the peculiar lead^-blne 
tint BO characteristic of the Malayo-Folynesians. 

The portrait of a man with a feather in his hair (Fig. 9) was sent to me as 
a specimen of the Indo-European type of the Maori ; Fig. 10, as one exhibiting 
Mongolian features ; and Fig. 11, as a man of the Papuan type. 


The Mongolian features are better ahown in the photographe of the women, 
some of whom are much like the Chinese females. The eyes are slightly 
oblique, but the cheek-bouea are not high ; and in some examples the face is 
oval and the contom: almost beantiihl. 

The portrait (Fig. 12) is that of a son of a chief of the Island of Msnti or 
Manke — one of the Cook or Hervey's GJroup. In 
appearance generally he resembles the Maori of 
New Zealand, bnt he is not tattooed. His face, 
when animated, exhibited a culture, intelligence, 
and refinement not usually seen, I believe, amongst 
the Maories. This yoong man, who wrote his name 
Tomann, came on a visit to Melbonme. He could 
speak but little English — only a few words — but 
he had evidently been well educated by the Mission- 
aries. The skin of his face was rough and coarse, 
his complexion a deep yellowish-olive, his eyea 
horizontal and dark-brown, the *' whites" pretty 
clear ; his hair black, with here and there a white 
hair ; he had rather scanty indications of a beard, 
rn. n. and a retreating forehead, but a not unshapely head. 

His neck was strong, and he was a tall, large, rather heavy man. He may be 
regarded as a fine specimen of the Malayo-Polynesian. It is said that in the 
islands where he lives the lower classes are very dark, and inferior in stature 
and in appearance to the chiefs. He spoke with a slight lisp. 

He gave me a few words of his native tongue. They are as follow : — 
Head ------ M<mk-ke. 

Eyes _----- M'atta. 

Nose Put-i-u. 

Mouth ------ Vahrvah, 

Teeth Ne~o. 

Chin Tangla. 

Beard ------ Oo-roo-roo. 

Tongue ------ LUlah. 

Hand ------ Dimang. ■ 

Feet ------ Vahr-veer. 

Fingers . . . - _ Mong-ak Mong~ah. 

Nails of Fingers - - - - Mikeak. 

I could not ascertain whether or not the numerals in his language went 
beyond five. He gave me the following only : — 

One ------ Kotti. 

Two ------ Karoo-ah. 

Three ------ Kaderook. 

Four ------ Kor^iA. 

Five ------ KeriouiTUf. 

One of tlie words for head in the language of the New Zealanders is Makame ; 
the word for eye in the dialect of De Feyster'a Islands, the Marquesas, Emd 



Fia 13. 

C!ocos Islands, is TMita; that for nose in the Marquesas and in the TTftTiftlrft 
dialect of the Sandwich Islands is ihu ; and at Satawal it is poitL Mouth in 
the Marquesas v&fafay and tooth is niho; and in the Kanaka of the Sandwich 
Island the tongue is lelo, and the foot is vae. 

In the dialects of Polynesia and Micronesia there are some words that have 
the same sound as words in the language of the Australians ; but the meanings 
attached to them are not always the same. Such coincidences would point to 
conclusions of great importance if supported by other circumstances. 

Eather a fevorable specimen of the Chinese, who are numerous in Victoria, 

is represented in Fig. 13. His head greatly contrasts 
that of the Australian. The smooth rounded contours 
and the arched brow are characteristic of the race. 
Many of them have well-developed foreheads, but the 
oblique eyes, the laterally projecting cheek-bones, and 
the form and small size of the nose, make no very 
pleasing picture in the sight of a European. Very few 
have beards, and some show only a few scattered hairs 
on the upper lip and chin. 

The Chinese in Melbourne — I speak only of the 
laboring classes — are fond of gambling and indulge 
in opium smoking; but they are otherwise sober in 
their habits and very industrious. They will carry 
very heavy burdens all through the hottest day of 
summer without appearing to be fatigued. They are good traders and most 
excellent gardeners. Many are married to European women, and their children 
exhibit, I think, invariably a stronger likeness to the father than to the mother. 
It is not known from what part of China this person whose portrait is given 
here came. 

The descriptions of the natives of Australia, as given by various observers, 
are instructive. 

Mr. Stanbridge thus describes them : — " Unlike the Aborigines of Tasmania, 
whose color is black, with black wooUy hair, those of Victoria have com- 
plexions of various shades of dark olive-brown, and in some instances so light 
that a tinge of red is perceptible in the cheeks of the young, with slightly curly 
black hair; but there are isolated cases of woolly hair amongst the men and 
dark-brown hair amongst the women. This difference in the color of the skin 
appears distinctly marked in the half-breeds, the Australian being invariably 
of a brown or gipsy tinge, while the only Tasmanian known to the writer was 
of a black or negro hue. They are straight-limbed, square-shouldered, slightly 
but compactly made; occasionally an individual' of herculean proportions is met 
with. There are none amongst them who are deformed, except those who have 
become so by accident. The men vary in stature from five to, in a few cases, 
upwards of six feet. They have thick beards, high cheek-bones, rather large 
black eyes, protruding eyebrows, which make the forehead appear to recede 
more than it really does, as high foreheads are not uncommon amongst them; 
thickish noses, which are sometimes straight and sometimes curved upwards; 


very large mouths and teeth; the size of the latter and the squareness of the 
jaw are probably caused by continually tearing food with the teeth, as young 
children have not that squareness of jaw, neither have boys who have lived 
almost entirely with white people. Their mode of whistling, which consists in 
drawing the lower lip with the finger and thumb tightly on one side, has its 
influence, no doubt, on the size of the lips. The men of the Coorong, who 
subsist almost wholly upon fish, have much smaller mouths and thinner lips; 
their eyebrows also are not so heavy. In appearance they much resemble the 
New Zealanders."* 

Dr. Strutt says of the natives of the River Murray: — " The face is generally 
round, rather broad, chin round and well formed, mouth large."t 

Mr. Taplin writes thus: — " There is a remarkable difference in color and cast 

of features Some natives have light complexions, straight 

hair, and a Malay countenance; while others have curly hair, are very black, 
and have the features of the Papuan or Melanesian. It is therefore probable 
that there are two races of Aborigines; and, most likely, while some tribes are 
purely of one race or the other, there are tribes consisting of a mixture of both 

Mr. Carl Wilhelmi observes that the " striking peculiarities in the appear- 
ance of their body are their miserably thin arms and legs, wide mouths, hollow, 
deep-sunken eyes, and flat noses; if the latter are not naturally so formed, they 
make them so by forcing a bone, a piece of wood, or anything else, through 
the sides of the nose, which causes them to stretch. They generally have a 
well-arched front, broad shoulders, and a particularly high chest. The men 
possess a great deal of natural grace in the carriage of their body; their gait 
is easy and erect, their gestures are natural under all circumstances — ^in 
their dances, their fights, and while speaking; and they certainly surpass the 
European in ease and rapidity of their movements. With respect to the women 
we cannot speak so favorably by a great deal; their bodies are generally dis- 
figured by exceedingly thin arms and legs, large bellies, and low hanging 
breasts, a condition sufficiently accounted for by their early marriages, their 
insufficient nourishment, their carrying of heavy burdens, and the length of 
time they suckle their children, for it is by no means uncommon for children to 
take the breast for three or four years, or even longer." § Mr. Wilhelmi adds, 
that there are considerable varieties not only of countenances and forms of body, 
but also of colors and skins. The skin of the tribes of the north is dark and 
dry in appearance, and that of the people of the south approaches a copper- 

The Eev. Mr. Schtirmann believes that the best fed and most robust natives 
are of the lighter colors. 

Capt. Grey, writing of the natives of North-Western Australia, says : — 
"They closely resemble the other Australian tribes, with which I have since 
become pretty intimately acquainted; whilst in their form and appearance there 

♦ Tribes in the Central part of Victoria, by W. E. Stanbridge, F.E.S. 

f The Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council of Victoria, 

X The Narrinyerif p. 84. § Natives of the Port Lincoln District, South Australia, 


ifl a striking difference. They are in general very tall and robust, and exhibit 
in their legs and arms a fine, fall development of muscle, which is unknown to 

the southern races A remarkable circumstance is the presence 

amongst them of a race, to appearance tolally different, and almost white, who 

seem to exercise no small influence over the rest . I saw but 

three men of this fair race myself, and thought they closely resembled Malays; 
some of my men observed a fourth." Grey, quoting Usberne, refers to the 
appearance of the people of Eoebuck Bay: — "They were about five feet six 
inches to five feet nine in height, broad shoulders, with large heads and over^ 

hanging brows. Their legs were long and very slight. 

• ••••• There was an exception in the youngest, who appeared of an 

entirely different race; his skin was a copper-color, whilst the others were 
black; his head was not so large and more rounded ; the overhanging brow 
was lost ; the shoulders more of a European turn, and the body and legs much 
better proportioned ; in fact, he might be considered a well-made man at our 
standard of figure."* 

Capt. Stokes gives the following account of the people of the north-west 
coast : — " The natives seen upon this coast during our cruise, within the limits of 
Boebuck Bay to the south and Port George the Fourth to the north, an extent 
of more than two hundred miles, with the exception that I shall presently 
notice, agreed in having a conmion character of form, feature, hair, and 
physiognomy, which I may thus describe. The average height of the males 
may be taken to be from five feet five inches to five feet nine inches, though, 
upon one occasion, I saw one who exceeded this height by an inch. They are 
almost black ; in fact, for ordinary description, that word, unqualified by the 
adverb, serves the purpose best. Their limbs are spare and light, but the 
muscle is finely developed in the superior joint of the arm, which is probably 

owing to their constant use of it in throwing the spear Their hair 

is always dark, sometimes straight and sometimes curled, and not unfrequently 
tied up behind ; but we saw no instance of a negro or woolly head among them. 
They wear the beard upon the chin, but not upon the upper lip, and allow it to 
grow to such a length as enables them to champ and chew it when excited by 
rage, an action which they accompany with spitting it out against the object of 
their indignatioq or contempt. They have very overhanging brows and retreat- 
ing foreheads, large noses, full lips, and wide mouths."t 

The natives of King George's Sound are thus described by P6ron : — " Ces 
hommes sont grands, maigres et tr^s-agiles; ils ont les cheveux longs, les 
sourcils noirs, le nez court, £pat£ et renfonc^ k sa naissance, les yeux caves, 
la bouche grande, les l^vres saillantes, les dents tr^s belles et tr^s blanches. 
L'int^rieur de leur bouche paroissoit noir comme I'ext^rieur de leur corps. Les 
trois plus kg&a d^entre eux qui pouvoient avoir de quarante & cinquante ans, 
portoient une grande barbe noire ; ils avoient les dents comme lim^es, et la 
cloison des narines percie ; leur cheveux 6toient taillfis en rond et naturellement 
bouclds. Les deiix autres que nous juge&mes 6tre figSs de seize & dix-huit ans, 

• North" West and Western AuBtrdUa^ yol. i., pp. 253-5, 

t Discoveries in Australia^ by Capt. Stokes, R.N.^ toI. i., pp. 88-9, 



n'offroient aucnne esp^ de tatoaage ; lenr longae chevelare ^toit r^anie en an 
chignon pondri, d'une terre rouge dont les vienx avoient le corps frottfi." * 

Collins observed in New South Wales natives as black as the African negro, 
others of a copper or Malay color. &ack hair was general, but some had hair 
of a reddish cast.t 

Major Mitchell saw in some places *' fine-looking men/' Some of the men 
of the Bungan tribe had straight brown hair, others Asiatic features, much 
resembling Hindoos, with a sort of woolly hair. The natives of the Darling, 
however, were not pleasing. " The expression of their countenances,'' he says, 
'^ was sometimes so hideous, that after such interviews I have found comfort in 
contemplating the honest faces of the horses and sheep ; and even in the scowl 
of the patient ox I have imagined an expression of dignity, when he may have 
pricked up his ears, and turned his horns towards these wild specimens of the 
* lords of the creation.' " t 

Lieut.-Col. Mundy found some well-made men amongst the natives of New 
South Wales. One man — the chief of a tribe, the only old man belonging to 
it — ^is thus described : — " He was of much superior stature to the others, full 
six feet two inches in height, and weighing fifteen stone. Although apparently 
approaching threescore years, and somewhat too far gone to flesh, the strength 
of ^ the old Bull,' for that was his name, must still have been prodigious. His 
proportions were remarkably fine ; the development of the pectoral muscles and 
the depth of chest were greater than I had ever seen in individuals of the many 
naked nations through which I have travelled. A spear laid across the top of 
his breast as he stood up, remained there as on a shelf. Although ugly, accord- 
ing to European appreciation, the countenance of the Australian is not always 
unpleasing. Some of the young men I thought rather well-looking, having 
large and long eyes with thick lashes, and a pleasant, frank smile. Their hair 
I take to be naturally fine and long, but from dirt, neglect, and grease, every 
man's head is like a huge black mop. Their beards are unusually black and 

buhhy The gait of the Australian is peculiarly manly and 

graceful ; his head thrown back, his step firm ; in form and carriage at least he 
looks creation's lord — 

• erect and tall, 

Godlike erect, in native honor clad/ 

In the action and ^ station ' of the black there is none of the slouch, the stoop, 

the tottering shamble, incident all upon the straps, the braces, the high heels, 

and pinched toes of the patrician, and the clouted soles of the clodpole white 

man." § 

Many of the natives of the eastern seaboard, like those of the Murray in 

Victoria, are remarkably stout and strong. Mr. Hodgkinson found a fine 

specimen on the Bellingen, in Queensland : — " One man in particular had 

been pre-eminently remtokable (in outrages on whites) from his tallness and 

herculean proportions ; the sawyers up the Nambucca had distinguished him 

* Voyage de Dicouvertes aux Terret Austrmles, 1800-4. 
' t English Colony in New South Wales, by Lieut.-Col. Collins, 1804. 
X Interior of Eastern Australia^ by Major (Sir Thomas) Mitchell, 1838. 
§ Our Antipodes f hj Lieat.-Col. Mund/, 1857, p. 46. 


by the name of ' Cobbann (big) Bellingen Jack.' I never saw a finer specimen 
of the Australian Aborigines than this fellow ; the symmetry of his limbs was 
fruitless, and he wonld hare made a splendid living model for the students of 
the Boyal Academy. The haughty and dignified air of his strongly-marked 
and not unhandsome countenance, the boldly-developed muscles, the broad 
shoulders, and especially the great depth of his cheat, reminded me of some 
antique torso." * 

Jardine gives no very flattering account of the natives of Cape York. 
" The only distinction," he says, " that I can perceive, is that they appear to 
be in a lower state of degradation, mentally and physically, than any of the 
Australian tribes which I have seen. Tall, well-made men are occasionally 
seen, but these almost invariably show decided traces of a Papuan or New 
Guinea origin, being easily distinguished by the ^ thrum ' like appearance of the 
hair, which is of a somewhat reddish tinge, occasioned, no doubt, by constant 
exposure to the sun and weather. The color of their skin is also much lighter, 
in some individuals approaching almost to a copper-color. The true Australian 
Aborigines are perfectly black, with, generally, woolly heads of hair ; I have, 
however, observed some with straight hair and features prominent, and of a 
strong Jewish cast."t 

Macgillivray says that the Australians of Cape Tork differ in no respect 
from those of other parts of the continent ; but they do not, it appears, strike 
out the upper incisors, nor do they practise circumcision or any similar rite. 
Amongst the Aborigines of Port Essington he observed no striking peculiarity. 
The septum of the nose is invariably perforated, and the right central incisor — 
rarely the left — ^is knocked out during childhood. Both sexes are more or less 
ornamented with large raised cicatrices, on the shoulders and across the chest, 
on the abdomen and buttocks, and outside of the thighs. They wear no cloth- 
ing ; and their ornaments consist chiefly of wristlets, made of the fibres of a 
plant, and armlets of the same, wound round with cordage. They have neck- 
laces formed of fragments of reed strung on a thread, or of cordage, passing 
under the arms and crossed over the back. Girdles of finely-twisted human 
hair are occasionally worn by both sexes. The men sometimes add a tassel of 
the hair of the opossum or fiying squirrel suspended in front. A piece of stick 
or bone, thrust into the perforation in the nose, completes the costume. They 
paint themselves with red, yellow, white, and black, in different styles, appro- 
priate to dancing, fighting, or mourning. . 

Speaking of the Papuans, which Macgillivray states includes, in his work, 
merely the woolly or frizzled haired inhabitants of the Louisiade, south-east coast 
of New Guinea, and the islands of Torres Strait, he says : — " They appear to me 
to be resolvable into several indistinct types, with intermediate gradations; thus 
occasionally we met with strongly-marked negro characteristics, but still more 
frequently with the Jewish cast of features, while every now and then a face 
presented itself which struck me as being perfectly Malayan. In general the 
head is narrow in front, and wide and very high behind, the face broad from 

* From Fort Macquarie to Mortton Bay, 1845. 

t Overland Expedition from RockhampUm to Cape York, 1867| p. 82. 


the great projection and height of the cheek-bones and depression at the 
temples ; the chin narrow in front, slightly receding, with prominent angles to 
the jaw ; the nose more or less flattened and widened at the wings, with dilated 
nostrils, a broad, slightly arched and gradually rounded bridge, pulled down at 
the tip by the use of the nose-stick ; and the mouth rather wide, with thickened 
lips, and incisors flattened on top as if ground down. Although the hair of the 
head is almost invariably woolly, and, if not cropped close or shaved, frizzled 
out into a mop, instances were met with in which it had no woolly tendency, 
but was either in short curls, or long and soft, without conveying any harsh 
feeling to the touch. In color, too, it varied, although usually black, and when 
long, pale or reddish at the tips [caused perhaps by the use of lime-water] ; yet 
some people of both sexes were observed having it naturally of a bright-red 
color, but still woolly. The beard and moustache, when present, which is 
seldom the case, are always scanty, and there is very little scattered hair upon 
the body. The color of the skin varies from a light to a dark copper-color, the 
former being the prevailing hue ; individuals of a light-yellowish brown hue are 
often met with, but this color of the skin is not accompanied by distinctive 
features. The average stature of these Papuans is less than our own, being 
only about five feet four inches." * 

In what manner the natives of Australia impressed the earlier voyagers is 
told by Dampier : — " They have great bottle-noses, pretty ftdl lips, and wide 
mouths. The two fore teeth of their upper-jaw are wanting in all of them, men 
and women, old and young ; whether they draw them out I know not ; neither 
have they any beards. They are long-visaged, and of a very unpleasing aspect, 
having no one graceful feature in their fitces. Their hair is black, short, and 
curled^ like that of the negroes, and not long and lank like the common 
Indians. The color of their skins, both of their faces and the rest of their 
body, is coal-black, like that of the negroes of Guinea." t 

The French who accompanied La Perouse said, after visiting the coast of New 
South Wales, that in their whole voyage they nowhere found so poor a country 
nor such miserable people ; and yet how rich is the country 1 and how interesting 
are the natives that once peopled it! Until the white man invaded their shores 
they were happy. 


Many of the half-castes in Victoria present peculiarities that are of great 
interest. The complexion of the females is generally a pale-brown (usually 
called olive), and they do not often show much red on the cheeks, though there 
are marked exceptions to this. The boys, on the other hand, have, as a rule, 
bright, clear complexions, with red cheeks ; and some coidd not be distinguished 
from children of European parents. There are ordinarily patches of light- 
brown hair mixed with the dark-brown hair of their heads ; but I have never 
seen any peculiarities of color in the eye. Amongst Europeans we see occasion- 
ally persons having differently colored eyes — the iris of one eye being brown, 

• Narrative of the Voyage ofJI.M.S. Rattlesnake, by John MacgUliTray, FJB.G.S., 1852. 
t Dampier^e Voyages, rol. i., p. 464. 


with the " white " quite clear, and that of the other deep brown-black, with the 
"white" flecked and streaked with bluish and brownish colors. 

The young half-castes partake in their form, features, and color more of the 
character of the male parent than that of the Aboriginal female. It is rare to 
see one that strikingly resembles the black mother. The nose is usually broad, 
the wings of the nose are in some elevated, the mouth is large, and the lips are 
thick, but seldom is any one feature very strongly or coarsely marked. 

A few show finely-cut features, the delicate outlines of which greatly con- 
trast those seen amongst the natives of pure blood. Their cheek-bones do not 
project ; the superciliary ridges are not prominent ; the eyes are large, liquid, 
and have a soft expression ; and their aspect, though somewhat foreign, is not 
so much so as to excite comment. They are very like the people of Southern 
Europe, and many would be passed by without remark in a crowd of English 

When the half-castes attain maturity they exhibit, however, the admixture 
of Aboriginal blood more strongly. They become fleshy and coarse, their 
countenances are heavy — and some are almost repulsive. 

Both the males and the females deteriorate after they have passed the age 
of twelve or fourteen years. 

The children of a half-caste female and a white man are not to be dis- 
tinguished from children of European parents. What peculiarities they may 
display when they arrive at maturity is not known. 

Some half-castes very quickly adopt European customs, and others prefer 
the society of the blacks — depending on the manner in which they have been 
situated in their youth. A half-caste young woman from the north was living 
for some time in a gentleman's family in Melbourne. She was educated, had 
been taught music^ and appeared to be more than usually intelligent. 

tnhl (^hnrutex. 


It is not easy to convey correct ideas regarding the mental capacity and facul- 
ties of the Aborigines by any general statements. They differ from one another 
almost as much as uneducated Europeans differ from one another ; but while in 
the latter the capabilities of improvement are very great, in the Australian 
black they are limited. With keen senses, quick perceptions, and a precocity 
that is surprising, he stops short just at the point where an advance would lead 
to a complete change in the character of his mind. 

The adult wild native when brought into contact with the whites learns the 
English language quickly and easily, and all the words that at all resemble 
those of his own tongue are pronounced distinctly. Those which are harsh, or 
in which sibilants occur, he softens, and he keeps closely to the grammar of 
his own language. 

Black children brought up in the schools learn very quickly, and in percep- 
tion, memory, and the power to discriminate they are, to say the least, equal to 
European children. A Missionary, the Bev. F. A. Hagenauer, a gentleman of 
great ability, who has the control of the Aboriginal Station at Lake Wellington, 
reports that the examinations made by the Government School Inspectors show 
that the Aboriginal pupils taught by him are quite equal to the whites. In his 
last report he states that the whole of the fifth class in his school had passed 
the standard examination (that appoiated for pupils in State schools), and that 
they had received certificates. Whether they will continue to advance as they 
approach maturity is another question. If they do not, under the guidance of 
a gentleman of education who has devoted himself to the work of ameliorating 
the condition of the natives froni a sense of duty, it may fairly be assumed 
that the prevalent opinion regarding the mental constitution of the Australians 
is correct. 

The following account of a native youth, as given in the reports of the 
Board for the Protection of the Aborigines in Victoria, is similar in many 
respects to those recorded in other cases where attempts have been made to 
educate and civilize the natives : — 

'^ Thomas Bungeleen presents all the marks of the pure Australian, and in 
mental capacity, disposition, and character, is probably a feir type of the race. 
Before the Board undertook the care of him, some attempts had been made to 
teach him drawing, and he had been occasionally employed in copying letters 
and in other clerical duties ; but all the gentlemen who had kindly taken an 


interest in his welfare^ and endeavoured to teach him^ concurred in stating that 
hifl want of application rendered any great improvement quite hopeless ; he was 
found to be averse to labor, and all those inducements which operate on the 
European were wanting in him. He was brought before the Board and examined 
as to his qualifications ; it appeared that he had obtained some little instruction ; 
he could read with facility, write clearly, and seemed to possess some knowledge 
of arithmetic ; he exhibited a quiet unembarrassed manner, and replied to every 
question calmly but promptly. Here, in the case of this young Aboriginal, an 
opportunity seemed to be presented to the Board of proving to the world that 
the Aborigines of Australia are degraded rather by their habits than in conse- 
quence of the want of mental capacity, and though the boy showed only an 
average ability, it was thought that, by careful education and instruction, he 
would probably become a good citizen, and of the highest usefulness as an agent 
in dealing with the Aboriginal race. With this view they sought admission for 
him at the Granmiar School, St. Eilda road ; admission was refused, and perhaps 
the interests of the school were best served by the refusal ; but coioment on this 
fact would not probably tend to place in the most favorable light the peculiar 
advantages which we derive from civilization. The Board then proposed to have 
him educated at the Scotch College ; but this was abandoned, on the recommen- 
dation of Dr. Cairns, who suggested that he should be placed under the care of 
Mr. Robert Doig, a schoolmaster at Fitzroy square, who kindly took charge of 
him at once. After a short experience, it was found that ordinary means of 
coercion were quite ineffectual to compel habits of obedience and industry, and 
with great regret the Board had to abandon their scheme of educating Bungeleen 
in the manner first proposed. After being some time under the charge of Mr. 
Thomas, who has at all times exerted himself in a most praiseworthy manner 
in the boy's behalf, he was transferred to the S.B. Victoria, where, under the eye 
of Captain Norman, it is hoped he may be taught the duties of a seaman. The 
difficulty of educating and imparting instruction to an Aboriginal who, whatever 
be his natural good qualities, is yet not without many of the characteristics of 
the savage, is very great. Precisely those persons who, by education and char- 
acter, are best fitted to teach and control him, are those who would be the least 
likely to undertake such a charge; and the discipline of an ordinary school 
would scarcely improve him, even if he could be made to attend it regularly. 
Bungeleen's mind, under proper treatment, may be so far improved as to admit 
of his receiving a higher education, and if he acquire habits of obedience and 
industry, improvement is certain. Nearly all the Aborigines are, however, prone 
to amusements, and they dislike work and restraint of every kind : of a happy, 
playftd, kindly nature, it is questionable whether any of them are capable of 
sustained labor, such as is requisite to obtain knowledge to fit them for the 
business of civilized life." 

In a subsequent report, that for 1862, the Board write as follows : — ^**This 
Aboriginal boy, of whose future career great hopes were at one time enter- 
tained, has been for some time in the C.S.S. Victoria, under the care of 
Captain Norman. He has made the voyage to Carpentaria, and has lived 
continually in the ship since he first joined, with the exception of one or two 


brief visits to Melbourne. The Board regret to state that his conduct is most 
unsatisfactory. He is wholly deficient in the qualities which belong to a sailor, 
and equally unfitted for employment on shore. When, in consequence of gross 
misconduct, it is necessary to inflict punishment, Captain Norman states that 
he exhibits the mental peculiarities of some varieties of the African race — stolid 
indifference. He ^sulks'; and however severe the punishment might be, it would 
produce no effect. This characteristic, if joined to other qualities, would not be 
a mark of inferiority ; but he lacks the amour propre^ that personal pride and 
desire to be thought well of, without which mental progress is impossible. 
Thomas Bungeleen's misconduct on shore compelled the Guardian to make 
complaints, which were duly brought under the notice of Captain Norman. As 
it will be necessary to remove him from the Victoria, the grave consideration 
of the Board will be given to his future treatment. His case will not be 
considered hopeless until every available means to improve him shall have 

In the report for 1864 it is stated that — " Thomas Bungeleen is now under 
the care of the Secretary of the Central Board, and he is useftiUy employed 
in the office. He writes very well ; he is generally attentive to the instructions 
given to him, and is making fair progress in learning. He has some know- 
ledge of arithmetic, and he is gradually gaining a knowledge of the use of 
mathematical instruments: already he can plot from a simple field-book, 
and can draw plans tolerably well. He appears to like the work he has to do. 
Credit is due to Captain Norman, of the C.S.S. Victoria^ for much of this. 
On board the Victoria he was very troublesome ; but the discipline of the ship 
certainly has been beneficial to him. His temper is still peculiar, but less 
violent than it was when he was younger; and some hope is now entertained 
that he will lead a steady, reputable life. Every care will be taken to teach 
him useful knowledge, and to qualify him for a higher position than has yet 
been attained by any native of Australia.*' 

He died in 1865 : — " Thomas Bungeleen, an Aboriginal, who for some months 
was employed in the office in Melbourne, and gave evidence of some talent, is 
dead. A hope was entertained at one time that he would become a useful 
member of society ; but, whether owing to defects in his early education or a 
natural propensity to evil, he became nearly as troublesome in the office as 
he was when on board the Victoria. He died of gastric fever at the house of 
Mr. Hinkins, Moonee Ponds, on the 3rd January 1865." 

"Governor Phillip," says Bennett, "who had never relaxed in his efforts to 
benefit the Aborigines, took with him to England two promising young men of 
that unfortunate race : one of them was Bennilong, who had become much 
attached to him; the other was his companion, Yemmerawannie. They had 
acquired, from residing with the Governor, a knowledge of the usages of civilized 
life, and both were persons of more than ordinary sharpness and address. The 
latter died in England, but the former returned to the colony. He was, while 
in England, presented to George the Third, and introduced to most of the leading 
men of that day. He adopted the observances of society with remarkable readi- 
ness, and behaved on all occasions, while among strangers, with propriety and 


ease ; jet soon after his return he threw off his fine clothes^ and the restraints of 
civilized life, as alike inconvenient and distasteful, and, in spite of all persuasions 
to the contrarj, reverted to his old habits and his old haunts." * 

The Australian native is kind to little children, affectionate and faithful to 
a chosen companion; he shows exceeding great respect to aged persons, and 
willingly ministers to their wants ; he has great love very oflen for a favorite 
wife; he exhibits, at times, great courage; he is hospitable, and he can be 
generous under very trying circumstances. But he is also cruel, treacherous, 
mean, and cowardly. At one time he shows himself superior to the whites — at 
another he is as cunning as a fox and as ferocious as a tiger. Some tribes and 
families seem almost destitute of the better qualities, and others display on 
nearly all occasions, honesty, truthfulness, courage, and generosity. 

The conduct of the natives of Victoria when Buckley was first discovered by 
them, and during the period of more than thirty years that he dwelt amongst 
them ; the extraordinary kindness shown to the shipwrecked seaman Murrell, 
who lived with the wild blacks of Queensland for more than seventeen years ; 
their behaviour to Thomas Pamphlet, when he was entirely at their mercy ; the 
generous treatment of King by the blacks at Cooper's Creek ; and the many 
instances of loyalty and integrity that are recorded of natives who have been 
well treated by settlers and explorers — are sufficient to satisfy the mind that all 
the higher instincts on which civilized men pride themselves are not absent in 
the bosom of the savage. 

Though the natives at Cooper's Creek had no doubt been jfrightened by the 
explosion of the firearms, which the explorers discharged from time to time over 
their heads, to prevent them from carrying away the stores that were left, they 
were kind and compassionate to King. He says in his narrative : — ^^The same 
day one of the women, to whom I had given part of a crow, came and gave me 
a ball of nardoo, saying that she would give more only she had such a sore arm 
that she was unable to pound. She showed me a sore on her arm, and the 
thought struck me that I would boil some water in the billy, and wash her arm 
with a sponge. During the operation the whole tribe sat round, and were mut- 
tering one to another. Her husband sat down by her side, and she was crying 
all the time. After I had washed it, I touched it with some nitrate of silver, 
when she began to yell, and ran off crying out, Mokoro! Mokow! — (Fire I Fire I)t 
From this time she and her husband used to give me a small quantity of nardoo 
both night and morning, and whenever the tribe were about going on a fishing 
excursion, he used to give me notice to go with them. They also used to assist 
me in making a gourley, or breakwind, whenever they shifted camp. I generally 
shot a crow or a hawk, and gave it to them in return for these little services. 
Every four or five days the tribe would surround me and ask whether I intended 
going up or down the creek ; at last I made them understand that if they went 
up I should go up the creek, and if they went down I should also go down, and 
from this time they seemed to look upon me as one of themselves, and supplied 
me with fish and nardoo regularly." 

* Australian Discovery and Colonization, 1865, p. 170. 

t 'Tire," in Mr. Gaaon's Tocabulary, is thooroo. The word mookoo means "bone." 



Yet the people of this district are thus described hj Mr. Gason : — ^^^ A more* 
treacherous race I do not believe exists. They imbibe treachery in inSekJicyy and 
practise it until death, and have no sense of wrong in it. Gratitude is to them 
an unknown quality. No matter how kind or generous you are to them, you 
cannot assure yourself of their affection. Even amongst themselves, for a mere 
trifle, they would take the life of their dearest friend, and consequently are in 
constant dread of each other, while their enmity to the white man is -only kept 
in abeyance by fear. They will smile and laugh in your face, and the next 
moment, if opportunity offers, kill you without remorse. Eandness they construe 
into fear ; and had it not been for the determination and firmness of the early 
settlers, they would never have been allowed to occupy the country. The tribe 
is numerous, and if they knew (and it is feared they will eventually learn) their 
own power, the present white inhabitants could not keep them down, or for one 
day retain their possessions. They seem to take a delight in lying, especially 
if they think it will please you. Should you ask them any question, be 
prepared for a falsehood, as a matter of course. They not only lie to the 
white man, but to each other, and do not appe^ to see any wrong in it. 
Notwithstanding, however, what has been said of their treachery, and how- 
ever paradoxical it may appear, they possess, in an eminent degree, the three 
great virtues — ^hospitality, reverence to old age, and love for their children and 

A correspondent has furnished me with a very interesting account of the 
behaviour of a native who accompanied a trooper and another person with 
despatches addressed to Burke, the leader of the expedition of which King was 
a member. When the two whites and the black were starving and reduced to 
the miserable extremity of feeding on one emaU snake a day, with the usual 
meal of nardoo, which did not satisfy their cravings, and when either of the 
white men, according to their own account, would not have shrunk from a crime 
in order to procure food, so weak were they from fieimine, the native displayed a 
resignation truly astonishing, and calmly took only such portions of the snakes 
as his white companions gave him, though it was the black that caught the 
snakes and cooked them. My correspondent thus concludes : — ^^ The fidelity of 
the poor fellow was touching in the extreme. In the earlier portion of the 
period, when they were fruitlessly watching for * something to turn up,' a band 
of natives, of which their companion's tribe was an offshoot, came across them, 
and their native friend stood by them, exhausting all his diplomatic powers to 
cause his dusky brethren to render the powerless trio assistance ; and, to their 
credit be it said, that, although from the curious manner in which they gazed 
at the white skins there was sufficient proof that they had never seen a white 
man before, still they freely divided wild-fowl, &c., amongst them. Most 
tempting offers at last were made to the native to accompany them on their 
departure. He remained faithful to the end, when to remain with his comrades 
existed only the prospect of starvation, whilst to have gone with his countrymen 
he might have eventually had an opportunity of joining his Darling River tribe 

in safety. M states that when utter ruin stared them in their faces, he 

was struck with admiration when the poor creature offered, in his feeble 


condition, to find his way back to the Darling — an exhibition of conrage which 
made the white men ashamed of themselves. The poor fellow traversed hundreds 
of miles, and arrived at Menindie — ^not figuratively, but literally — ^with the skin 
off his feet But language is totally inadequate to describe the toilsome, 
chivalrous, and perilous journey undertaken by the native to relieve his white 
£riends — an act that shows even amongst ^the poor, half-witted natives of 
Victoria' (as some are pleased to term tiiem) there are those to be found who 
in the hour of danger can put the most civilized persons to the blush by their 
courage and devotedness." 

Mr. A. Porteous, a Local Guardian of Aborigines, makes mention of a native 
who was faithftd, courageous, and honest. He says : — ^^ The Aborigine who died 
on the 6th instant (May 1872) did an act, over thirty years ago, that might 
justly be recorded to his honor. At that early period the Aborigines knew 
nothing of civilization or the law of honor, but those not having the law are 
sometimes a law unto themselves. In the year 1838 the Mount Emu tribe 
was very numerous and warlike, and was a terror to many of their neighbours 
and also to the white man; every hut had two or three stand of arms. 
At one of the Mount Emu out-station huts the hutkeeper absconded (while 
the tribe was camped close to the hut), leaving the hut, with all it con* 
tained, in their hands. In the hut was a quantity of flour, sugar, tea, and 
meat, two or three stand of arms, bedding and clothing, belonging to two 
shepherds who were out with their sheep. A number of the tribe wanted to 
take everything that was in the hut and be off with it. When Billy heard 
what was proposed, he sprang into the hut and got a gun, and stood in the 
door, and told his companions that if any of them attempted to take any- 
thing he would shoot them, and ordered one of them to go to the home- 
station and tell the manager to send a white man to take charge of the hut ; 
and Billy kept possession until the white man came. During the last thirty- 
one years that I have known Billy his life has been in accordance with this 
act, sterlingly upright and ftill of kindness ; and I much regret to have to 
record his death.'* 

Major Mitchell had a good opinion of some of the natives he met with in his 
several expeditions. He says, ^^My experience enables me to speak in the most 
favorable terms of the Aborigines, whose degraded position in the midst of the 
white population affords no just criterion of their metits. The quickness of 
apprehension of those in the interior was very extraordinary, for nothing in all 
the complicated adaptations we carried with us either surprised or puzzled 
them. They are never awkward ; on the contrary, in manners and intelligence, 
they appear superior to any class of white rustics that I have seen. Their powers 
of mimicry seem extraordinary, and their shrewdness shines even through the 
medium of imperfect language, and renders them, in general, very agreeable 

At Fort Bourke, a strange black who saw Mr. Larmer (one of Major Mit- 
chell's party) fishing, gave him a fish ; and a black who was shot at and hit by 
the overseer in self-defence, ran off yelling, but on Major Mitchell's running 
after him with a green branch in his hand, the poor fellow threw away his 


weapons and sat down. He was relieved by Major Mitchell, and showed great 
fortitude. He was quite a wild black. 

Of their intelligence Major Mitchell gives an example : — ^^^ An opossum in a 
tree had baffled all the endeavours of himself (a friend of the king's) and some 
young men to get at it, when they ^cooyed' for the king. He came, climbed the 
tree in an instant, and after a cursory examination, dropped some small sticks 
down the hollow of the trunk, and listening, pointed, as by instinct, to a part of 
the trunk, much lower down, where, by making a small incision, the others 
immediately got the animal out." 

Their modes of expressing defiance and contempt are well described by the 
same eminent explorer. One native and a boy refused to move so as to allow 
the sheep to be driven back, and when the shepherd held out a green bough to 
them, they also each took a bough, spat upon it, and thrust it into the fire. On 
Major Mitchell advancing to the native with a green bough in his hand, the 
black was not daunted ; he shook a twig at him in quite a new style, waving it 
over his head, and moving it in such a manner as to indicate that they should 
go back. The black and the boy then threw up dupt at them in a clever way 
with their toes. The man's expressions of hostility and defiance were unmis- 
takable, and they could not conciliate him. He brought up his tribe subse- 
quently, and Major Mitchell gives a vivid picture of the strange antics of these 
untamed natives. They approached the party of white men, holding in their 
hands boughs, but using them apparently as if they wished the party to go 
away. They waved the branches defiantly and spat at the men. They after- 
wards sang a war-song, jumping, shouting, spitting, and throwing up dust. They 
retired, dancing in a circle, and jumping, crouching, and springing, spear in 
hand. The same tribe was seen again the next day. With them was an old 
man of an odd and striking appearance, supposed to be a coradje or priest. 
They commenced a processional chant, slowly waving their green boughs, and 
approaching the forge of the blacksmith. None except the old man and several 
other ancients wore any kind of dress, and the dress itself consisted of a small 
cloak of skins fastened over the left shoulder. As they chanted their mournful 
hymn, the old man occasionally turned his back towards Major Mitchell and his 
party, touched his eyebrows, nose, and breast as if crossing himself, then lifl;ed 
his arm towards the sky, and then laid his hand on his breast, all the time 
chanting with an air of remarkable solemnity. They proved to be thievish, 
endeavouring to steal all they could from the forge ; and when the blacksmith 
gave one a push, the thief commenced again the chanting and spitting, throwing 
dust in the air, and making a motion as if he would use his spear. Major Mitchell 
says that he never saw such unfavorable specimens of the natives as these — 
" implacably hostile, shamelessly dishonest." The more they saw of the invaders' 
superior weapons, the more they showed their hatred and tokens of defiance.* 

Collins's statements respecting the natives are accurate. "They are," he 
remarks in one part of his work, "revengeful, jealous, courageous, and cunning. 
Their stealing on each other in the night for the purpose of murder must not be 
imputed to them as a want of bravery, but as the effect of the diabolical spirit 

* Interior o/Eoitem AuatraUaf Tol. x. and u. 


of leyenge, whicli is thns sought, to make surer of its object^ than it could have 
done if only opposed man to man in the field." 

He adds that the natives of New Sonth Wales are splendid mimics. They 
were fond of attending church and noting the observances therein. After going 
away, they would take a book, and with much success imitate the clergyman in 
his manner, laughing and enjoying the applause which they received. 

Collins gives a very flattering picture of the women : — " The features of many 
of these people were far from unpleasing, particularly of the women ; in general, 
the black bushy beards of the men, and the bone or reed which they thrust through 
the cartilage of the nose, tended to give them a disgusting appearance ; but in 
the women, that feminine delicacy which is to be found among white people was 
to be traced even upon their sable cheeks ; and though entire strangers to the 
comforts and conveniencies of clothing, yet they sought with a native modesty 
to conceal by attitude what the want of covering would otherwise have revealed ; 
bringing to the recollection of those who observed them 

' The bending ttatne which enchants the world,* 

though it must be owned that the resemblance consisted solely in the position." * 

In other parts of this work reference is made to the remarkable affection 
which men sometimes display towards children^ and it is seen also in their 
behaviour to their relatives and friends. 

"Another very common error," says Mr. Bunce, " is that there exists no settled 
love or lasting affection between the sexes ; not only does the strongest feeling 
of affection exist between the male and female, but it is often exhibited between 
individuals of the same sex, as could be amply testified by witnessing the parting 
scene at an Aboriginal camp, when one of its members is about taking a long 
and dangerous journey. It is scarcely possible to conceive a more painful or 
affecting scene than is exhibited on such an occasion. The moment the time 
has arrived for the party to take leave, he rises and approaches his eldest male 
relative, with one hand extended and the other covering his eyes, the old man 
approaching in the same manner ; on meeting, each clasps firmly the other's 
hand, when they elevate their arms to an angle a little above the hair of their 
heads ; in this way they remain for the space of three minutes, and during the 
whole time genuine tears may be seen oozing through their fingers; at the 
expiry of the time mentioned they again lower their arms, and finish with three 
sharp jerks of the hand, and walk off in different directions, still continuing to 
hold down their heads, and avoiding the sight of each other again. This very 
affecting ceremony is only observed between relatives and those who are closely 
attached, but with others the three jerks of the hand only are given." f 

The mental peculiarities of the natives can be best ascertained from their 
habits, their customs, and their arts ; and the detailed accounts in this work 
exhibit them prominently. 

The Aborigines are at one time impulsive, at another phlegmatic ; they can 
exert themselves vigorously when hunting or fishing or fighting or dancing, 

* EngUth CoUmy in New South Wales, pp. 355, 357, 358. 

t Language of the Aboriginee qfthe Cokmg i^ Victoria, by Daniel Bnnoe, 1851. 


or at any time when there is a prospect of an immediate reward ; but prolonged 
labor with the object of securing ultimate gain is distasteful to them* 

They are industrious and painstaking in fashioning things that they know 
are of value to them and to the use of which they have been accustomed ; but 
they are slow in adopting the mechanical contrivances of the whites. 

They love ease even more than pleasure. The natives hunt in order to pro- 
cure food, not for the delights of the chase. Without being quarrelsome, they 
are always ready to fight — and, perhaps without premeditation, they are often 
cruel to the stricken foe: 

They are superstitious, they are credulous, and they willingly surrender their 
reason and ignore their instincts when influenced by their doctors and dreamers. 
They believe in the existence of evil spirits, and are afraid to leave their camps 
in the night ; but when they are impelled to avenge an injury, neither the dread 
of evil spirits nor the fear of darkness will hinder them. 

As there are very few instances of bodily deformity amongst the natives* — so 
equally rare are any mental peculiarities that might be traced to aberration of 
intellect. Indeed it is perhaps strictly true to say that insanity is unknown 
amongst the natives who have not mixed with Europeans. Dissipation, and 
drinking the poisonous liquors that are vended in the low public-houses in the 
bush, have no doubt produced their usual effects in some cases ; but the wild 
black is always sane. 

There are, it is believed, no idiots amongst them ; and deafiiess and dumbness 
are exceedingly rare.t 

* Collint states that few deformities of person were noticed amongst the natiyes of New South 
Wales : once or twice the prints of inrerted feet were seen on the sand. Boond shoulders or hump- 
backs were never obserred in anj one instance. I cannot remember ever haying seen a native with 
any deformity. 

t Mr. Gason says that during nine years' acquaintance with the Dieyerie and neighbouring tribes 
he encountered only one woman and one man deaf and dumb. He conversed with them by using 
native signs. 

gfumte and Siatribuit^n 4 ih %hn^m% in Wtcioxiu. 


The numbers that at the first coming of the white man occupied the area now 
known as Victoria cannot be ascertained nor even estimated with precision^ but 
enough is known of Victoria and of other parts of Australia, some but lately 
explored, to admit of a rough estimate being made. 

The late Sir Thomas Mitchell, whose accurate observations are justly valued 
by men of science, and whose works even now are the best to which reference 
can be made as regards Eastern Australia, formed a very low estimate of the 
numbers of the Aborigines : — " The native population is veiy thinly spread over 
the regions I have explored, amounting to nearly a seventh part of Australia. 
I cannot estimate the number at more than 6,000; but, on the contrary, I 
believe it to be considerably less. They may increase rapidly if wild cattle 
become numerous, and, as an instance, I may refer to the number and good 
appearance of the Cudjallagong tribe, near Macquarie Bange, where they occa- 
sionally fell in with a herd of wild cattle." * 

If the reader will cast his eye over the map of the vast extent of country 
explored by Sir Thomas Mitchell, this estimate will probably strike him with 
astonishment. That there should be more than forty-five thousand acres of land 
required for the support of one Aboriginal appears to be incredible ; but when 
the character of the country is careftdly examined, the vicissitudes of climate 
to which it is subject duly noted, and its natural productions observed — and 
when it is considered ftirther that the number of the Aboriginal inhabitants must 
of necessity be governed by the conditions of adverse seasons, rather than by 
those of ordinary or favorable years — ^and that, as will be seen when the laws of 
this people are considered, there was no possibility of any singularly rich or pro- 
ductive area in which food was plentiful adding to the resources of any tribes 
inhabiting adjacent less highly-favored lands — ^the sparseness of the population 
will cease to excite astonishment, and more importance will be attached to the 
low estimate— certainly, as regards Victoria, the very low estimate — ^made by 
Sir Thomas Mitchell. 

The late Mr. E. S. Parker, who was for many years a Protector of Aborigines, 
stated, when delivering a lecture in Melbourne in 1854, that he estimated the 
number of the Aboriginal population at the foundation of the colony at 7,500. 
He said: — ^^In the year 1843 I endeavoured to take a nominal census of the 
Aboriginal population in the district extending from the Gk)ulbum on the east to 
the Upper Winmiera on the west, and from the Great Dividing Range between 

* TTiree ExptditUms into tke Interior of Eastern AMetraHa^ toL n., p. 845. 


the coast rivers and the interior waters on the south and the Mallee country on 
the north. I found then and registered by name, in their respective families and 
tribes, about 1,100 individuals."* 

The late Mr. WiUiam Thomas, who for more than a quarter of a century 
acted as Protector or Guardian of the Aborigines, and had in the discharge of his 
duty visited nearly every part of Victoria, undertook at my request, some years 
ago, to make a careful estimate of the number of the Aborigines at the time 
when they possessed the land ; and he arrived at the conclusion that the total 
number could not be less than 6,000. From his statement it appears that " the 
Aboriginal population in 1835-6 of the counties of Bourke, Evelyn, and Morn- 
ington was 350." But he adds that one-half at least of one of the tribes 
inhabiting these counties had perished in 1834 in a war with the Gippsland and 
Omeo blacks, and that previous to the war the total nmnber was certainly not 
less than 500.t Further, the three counties he selected were in his opinion but 
sparsely peopled as compared with some other parts of Victoria, that these 
lands are not the best suited for the support of an Aboriginal population, and 
that the rivers which their boundaries embrace are not stocked with fish as 
are the Murray and its affluents.^ Now the sum of the areas of these three 
counties is nearly 3,000,000 acres, which gives 6,000 acres for each Aboriginal ; 
and the population of the colony would have been, if the whole of it had been 
peopled in the same proportion, 9,200 nearly. In estimating the numbers in this 
manner it is necessary to take note of the geographical features of the colony. 

Though the counties named by Mr. Thomas are not the richest in Victoria, 
yet the greater part of the country they include is available for the uses of a 
savage people. Though the lands near the ranges are thickly timbered, and 
the eastern parts of Evelyn are covered in places with dense scrub, an immense 
area was in former times lightly timbered. Fine open forests of gum and she-oak 
covered a great part of Bourke ; in the county of Evelyn there is a fine river, 
with numerous perennial streams falling into it ; and in Momington there are 

* The Aborigines qfAwtralia : A Lecture; by B. S. Pftrker, 1854» pp. 13-14. 

1 1 give this ftatement as it was giyen to me. The native warfare generally does not resalt in 
the destruction of great numbers of the belligerents. One or two may fall in battle, nerer to rise 
again ; but not seldom is a war concluded without actual loss of life. Mr. Thomas, in stating that 
150 persons had perished in this war, merely repeated a story he had heard. During a protracted 
war — ^if the enemy followed the ordinary practices of the Australian sarages — it is possible that a 
number of women and children might be carried away, and some warriors killed, not in open war- 
fare, but treacherously by night— either strangled by the noose, or knocked on the head with the 
dub ; but a war resulting in the death of 150 persons is not certainly common amongst the blacks. 
Mr. Thomas, in a note dated the 17 th February 1864, states that, according to his obseryations, 
the Aborigines inrariably adopted natural boundaries for their territories, as rirers, creeks, and 
mountains. The Wawoorong or Yarra tribe daimed the lands induded within the basin of the 
River Yarra ; all waters flowing into it were theirs, and the boundaries were the dividing ranges on 
the north, east, and south. The Boonoorong or Coast tribe claimed in the same way aU the country 
lying to the south of the southern rim of the Yarra basin, eastwards from the Tarwin Biver to 
Port Phillip Bay, and southwards to the sea. In 1838 there were S05 members of the Wawoorong 
tribe, and 87 of the Boonoorong tribe. 

% The Murray cod-perch (OUgorus Macqucunensis), a large fish, often three feet in length, is found 
only in the River Murray and its tributaries. Black-fish, trout, eels, &c., are found in the rivers 
which flow from the southern and south-eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range towards the sea. 


many creeks and very large swamps. Moreover, the county of Mornington has 
an extensive and varied coast-line where fish and molluscs are plenti^ and 
easily procurable. These things must be borne in mind when the physical 
diaracter of the colony is attentively viewed and its capability for the support 
of a wandering people more careftdly shown. It is necessary to describe first 
those parts of tiie colony which could not of themselves support throughout 
the year any tribe or family of Aborigines, and some of which, if the blacks 
resorted to them at all, would be used by them as occasional hunting grounds 
only. Other parts, it is well known, would never be penetrated by them. The 
thick scrub, the want of water, and the fear of these untravelled wilds, would 
keep them as effectual barriers, separating tribes from tribes. 

In the north-western parts of Victoria there is a vast tract of sands and 
day-pans of Recent and Tertiary age, which is covered with Eucalyptus dumosa 
and E, oleosa, the nature of which none but those who have endeavoured to 
penetrate it can have an accurate idea. Its area is not less than 14,000 square 
miles. The Bichardson River, the Tarriambiack Creek, and the River Winmiera 
flow northwards through it towards the River Murray ; but the waters of those 
streams are lost in the sands. The lakes are large and the swamps are numerous 
in the southern and central parts ; but the tract is hot in summer and cold in 
winter, and much of it cannot be regarded but as " back-country" for the tribes 
bordering on it, to be used only at certain times during each season, when the pro- 
ductions which it affords might tempt the Aboriginals to penetrate several parts 
of it. This great, dense eucalyptus thicket is somewhat in the form of a triangle 
as it appears on the map of Victoria. Its base extends from the confluence of 
the River Lindsay and the River Murray on the north to Mount Arapiles on the 
south I and its southern boundary reaches from Mount Arapiles in a north- 
easterly direction and in a broken line with numerous outlying patches of dense 
scrub to Inglewood ; and other unconnected belts of Mallee are found between 
Inglewood and the junction of the River Murray with the River Loddon. Dense 
scrub again is found southwards covering the plains. 

The mountain ranges, also, are not fitted to maintain an uncivilized people 
during aU seasons of the year. The climate of the higher parts of the Cordillera, 
however agreeable in summer, is bitterly cold in winter. The flanks of the 
mountains which extend from Forest Hill to the Pyrenees are clothed with 
dense forests, and in places there are masses of scrub, some of which even yet 
have never been penetrated by man. These thickets cannot be passed by the 
colonists without great labor and much expense. They have to cut a track 
with the axe ; water and provisions must be carried to the working party ; and 
if the party is not strong in numbers, the attempt is relinquished. Aboriginals 
could never have searched but the margins of these areas. The mountain 
fastnesses, in winter covered with snow, and at times, in all seasons, shrouded 
in thick mists, were regarded with awe by the natives. Like the dark forests 
west of Mount Blackwood, they were held to be the abodes of evil spirits or 
of creatures — scarcely less to be dreaded — ^having the forms of men and the 
habits of beasts. It is certain that the blacks in the proper season occasionally 
visited the glens and ravines on both sides of the chain, but they did not live 



there. They yisited them for the purpose of obtaining woods suitable for 
making weapons^ feathers for ornament, birds and beasts for food, and for the 
tree-fern, the heart of which is good to eat, and for other vegetable productions. 

The wide, treeless, basaltic plains which stretch from the River Wannon on 
the west to the Hiver Moorabool on the east, and from Mount Cole on the north 
to the southern shores of Lake Korangamite on the south — an area of 8,000 
square miles — ^were occupied by numerous small tribes. The banks of all the 
lakes, rivers, and creeks were frequented by them ; and the ancient mirm-yong 
heaps and the low walls of stone erected for shelter or other purposes are still 
to be seen in many parts. The plains were the resort of the emu, the wild 
turkey, and the native companion, and the lakes and swamps were covered with 

The southern parts of the counties of Heytesbury and Polwarth, now known 
as the Cape Otway Forest, were for the most part probably unknown to the 
tribes who called the Colac and Korangamite country theirs. The labor 
attendant on a march through this densely-wooded district would not have been 
undertaken but in the pursuit of enemies ; and it would never have been chosen 
by any savage people as a permanent abode. The rains of winter and the thick 
fogs of autumn and spring would have been fatal to the younger members of the 
tribes. Whether or not any fiEimilies inhabited the river basins entirely separated 
from the tribes who had homes on the lands lying to the north and on the coast 
is not known. That the Coast tribes could and did penetrate many parts of this 
area is not denied, but it is scarcely probable that any tribe would live in the 
denser parts from year to year. 

It is proper then, in estimating the area available to this people for perma- 
nent settlement, to eliminate those tracts which could not of themselves support 
throughout the year a single tribe, also those thickly-wooded and scrubby 
mountain ranges which the means at the command of the natives would not 
allow them to penetrate, and the result is that no more than 30,000,000 acres 
can be considered as open to them for ordinary uses. When, further, we regard 
their laws, which forbid unnecessary encroachment on the lands held by their 
neighbours (and all the lands peculiarly their own were set out and known by 
landmarks), and note the localities rich in stone fit for making hatchets 
(common to numerous widely-separated tribes), and the debatable grounds 
which year after year would be the scene of conflicts, we must again make a 
large deduction from the above estimate. 

All that is known of the original condition of the natives of Victoria points to 
this : that the rivers were their homes. The River Murray from Albury to the 
River Lindsay was well peopled ; the Rivers Mitta Mitta, Ovens, Gbulbum, Cam- 
paspe, Loddon, Avoca, Avon, Richardson, Glenelg, and Wimmera gave refuge 
to many tribes ; in the lake country and on the coast and in Gippsland the tribes 
were numerous and strong ; but as regards the rest of the land included within 
the boundaries of Victoria, it was either imknown or but frequented for short 
periods in certain seasons. 

It would appear therefore that Sir Thomas Mitchell's estimate of the 
number of Aborigines, based on calculations made after traversing a country 


a great part of which consisted of wide arid plains, where no savage tribes conld 
find, in certain seasons, either food or water, is too low ; and that applying the 
figures based on the native population of three counties in Victoria to the whole 
area of the colony, Mr. Thomas's estimate is too high. Between the numbers — 
1,220 and 6,000 — ^there is much left for conjecture ; but if we correct Mr. 
Thomas's estimate, so far as to make his figures applicable to the area in 
Yictoria available for a savage people, and subtract from the area of the counties 
he has cited those areas within them which are covered by dense forests and 
scrub, we find that the total number would not exceed 3,000 — that is to say, 
about 18,000 acres of all kinds of country to each Aboriginal. * 

It is impossible to give figures which will satisfy the enquirer ; but, in 
attempting to arrive at the truth, he is enlightened and helped by the preceding 

In his journey towards the Grampians — ^previous to the occupation of that 
part of Victoria by the whites — Sir Thomas Mitchell saw very few Aborigines. 
Mr. Landsborough, also, in travelling southwards from Carpentaria, met with 
very few natives, the largest number he counted being thirty ; and he believes 
that the country is nowhere thickly peopled ; and the statements of travellers 
generally confirm this impression. Those who are of a different opinion must 
not be blamed. It is only the experienced bushman who is able to estimate the 
numbers of a tribe in the bush. A few — ^fifty or sixty — ^moving backwards and 
forwards in the bush, changing their weapons, now holding their arms aloft, 
and anon appearing without any in their hands (all the time dragging them 
between their toes), uttering wild shouts, and answered by their wives at a 
distance, give to a stranger the impression of a multitude of people. The 
inexperienced man supposes that he has seen two hundred warriors, f 

* It appears from a statement in a pamphlet published by Mr. W. Westgarth in 1846, that Mr. 
6. A. Robinson, the Chief Protector of Aborigines in Fort Phillip, had made an estimate of the 
number of the Aboriginal inhabitants within the area of land now known as Victoria. His estimate 
«ras 5,000 — one Aboriginal to each sixteen square miles. This closely approximates to the number 
giren by Mr. Thomas. The mean of the three estimates— that made by Mr. Thomas, that made by 
Mr. Robinson, and that made by me — ^is 4,600, nearly. 

Grey fbmid it impossible to gire an estimate of the number of Aborigines — ^not, it is presumed, 
because of the great multitude of them, but because of the paucity of them. He says : — " Seyeral 
writers hare given calculations as to the number of native inhabitants to each square mile in 
Australia. Now, although I have done my utmost to draw up tables which might even convey an 
approximate result, I have found the number of inhabitants to a square mile to vary so much, from 
district to district, from season to season — and to depend upon so great a variety of local circum- 
stances — ^that I am unable to give any computation which I believe would even nearly approach the 
truth ; and as I feel no confidence in the results which I have obtained, after a great deal of labor, 
I cannot be expected to attach much importance to those which, to my own knowledge, have, in 
several instances, been arrived at by others from mere guess-work."— ./oKma/ of Two Expeditioiu 
ofDisciwety, vol. n., p. 246. 

t It is very difficult for a stranger to distingnish one Aboriginal from another. The face of one 
man appears to be the same as the face of another man — ^to the eye of one inexperienced. A Chinaman 
just arrived in Victoria will tell you that he sees no differences in the fitces of the Europeans he 
meets. An Englishman, at the first sight of the people, cannot tell one Chinaman from another. It 
is long before one can reaUy know a blackfellow. They seem to be aU alike ; and though they are 
alike to us, we are not alike to them. The Australian Aboriginal knows a friend at once. I have had 
many prooft of this instinct ; and I have many times been stopped and spoken to by Aboriginals 
whose names or faces I could not*— until after much exertion of memory— call to mind. 


On some occasions all the tribes inhabiting a large area assemble at one 
spot, and a stranger seeing perhaps fonr hundred or five hundred natives might 
suppose that they were nsnally present at the place, and that other adjacent 
localities were peopled in like manner. 

Again, it is known that a tribe will follow white men many scores of 
miles. They appear at times painted in such colors, and in such places, as 
to lead to the belief that they are not the same men who were seen many days 

I have prepared a map showing some of the areas formerly occupied by 
the tribes of Victoria, and though necessarily imperfect and incomplete, it is 

For Gippsland, my authorities are the Bev. John Bulmer and the Bev. F. A. 

The Rev. Mr. Bulmer gives the following account of the lands formerly held 
by the people : — 

1. Boul-boul. — ^Their lands extended from the entrance to the Gippsland 

Lakes to the island of Botomah. They confined themselves to the 
peninsula — hence their name, Boul-boul, which means a peninsula 
or island. Their food was chiefly fish and Ngurang, a kind of root. 
The country is swampy. 

2. Tirthung or Nicholson River tribe ; and the 

3. Bra-bri-woolong, or Mitchell River tribe, occupied all that country lying 

between the Mitchell and the Tambo. 

4. Tirtalowa Kani held the area between the Tambo and the Snowy 


5. The Lake l^ers tribe occupied that tract lying between the entrance to 

the Lakes and Boggy Creek. 

6. The Krowithun Koolo claimed the country east of the Snowy River to 

the River Genoa, near Twofold Bay. 

7. Bidwell. — ^The Bidwell people lived in the back-countiy from the Snowy 

River to the Great Dividing Range. All the tribes on the GippcH 
land side of the Great Dividing Range are known as Kamathan 
Kanij or Lowlanders ; the word Karruing meaning at the foot of a 
hill, or in a low place. The tribes on the other side are styled 
Brajerakj which means men who are to be feared. The word is 
formed from Bra^ a man, Bud Jer^ahy to fear. Mr. Bulmer supposes 
that the blacks meant to imply that the people beyond the great 
range were strangers, and not safe to deal with. He adds that 
it is very difficult to form an estimate of the total number of 
Aborigines in Gippsland, but he thinks that, from present appear- 
ances, they never could have numbered more than 1^000^ or at most 

The area of Gippsland is, roughly, 10,000,000 acres ; and assuming that there 
were as many as 1,500, the number of acres to each black would be 6,666. 



Mr. Hagenaner mentions the following tribes, namely : — 

1. Tarrawarracka, inhabiting Port Albert and Tarraville. 

2. WoUoom ba Belloom-belloom, on the La Trobe, at Bosedale and at 

Lake Beeves. 

3. Moonoba Ngatpan, on the Bivers Macalister and Thomson. 

4. Worreeke ba Koonangyang, on the Bivers Mitchell, Nicholson, and 


5. Dooveraak ba Daan, on the Bivers Buchan and Snowy. 

Mr. Hagenaner says that the rivers and lakes frequented by them were the 
following : — 


1. La Trobe - 

2. Thomson - 

3. Macalister - 

4. Avon 

5. Perry 

6. Flooding (Creek) 

7. Crooked 

8. Merriman's (Creek) 

1. Wellington 

2. Victoria - 

3. King 

4. Bunga 

5. Beeves 

6. Jones' Bay 

- Dnrtyowan. 

- Carran-carran. 

- Woonindook. 

- Dooyadang. 

- GKx)nbeella« 

- Waypnt. 

- Naylong. 

- Durtin. 

- Mnrla. 

- Toonallook« 

- Ngarran. 

- Woonduck. 

- Walmnnyeera. 

- Nepoa Dadnck (tail of the lake). 

The name of the tribe that inhabited the high plains of Omeo was, accord- 
ing to information furnished to the Select Committee of the Legislative Council 
by the late Mr. Alfred Currie Wills, formerly Police Magistrate and Warden 
at Omeo, Gundanora. He stated that in May 1835 there were about 500 or 
600 men, women, and children resident during a few months of each year at 
their head-quarters on the elevated plain of Omeo. In 1842 they frequentiy 
assembled there in large numbers, and often killed many cattle belonging to 
squatters, whose stockmen, it is said, retaliated by firing on them. Their 
hunting and fishing grounds extended northward to the Cobboras Hills, south- 
ward and eastward to the Biver Tambo, and westward to the Bogong Bange, vid 
the Gibbo and Mitta Mitta rivers. 

I have not been able to ascertain what tribes commonly frequented the Lidi 
or Limestone Biver. 

The Talangatta Creek, a tributary of the Biver Mitta Mitta, was, according 
to Mr. James Wilson, the hunting ground of the Ginning-matong tribe ; and 
Mr. Thomas Mitchell states the Pallanganmiddah held a portion of the lower 

Mr. Henry B. Lane, Police Magistrate and Warden, says that the Worad- 
jerg tribe held the country lying between Howlong (twenty miles below Albury) 


and Dora Dora, some thirty or forty miles above it. The tribe named Thar-a- 
mirttong lived on the banks of the Biver Kiewa. 

In a report dated the 30th October 1862, the same gentleman states that 
'^ the forty blacks to whom rations, &c., are distributed at Tangamballanga are 
the sole remnants of three or four once powerful tribes, each of which, even 
within the memory of old settlers, numbered from 200 to 300 souls. These 
tribes inhabited tie tract of country now very nearly described on the elec- 
toral map as comprising the Murray District of the Eastern Province, and 
containing an area of about 2,000 square miles. Now a great portion of this 
country is still as free for the blacks to roam over as it was twenty years ago, 
being occupied only by pastoral stations, generally distant from each other 
fifteen or twenty miles. It is a mountainous and well-wooded district, the 
climate of which is decidedly more healthy and salubrious than that of the 
arid plains in the western portion of the colony. There are several fine rivers 
intersecting it, well stocked with fish ; and game (such as usually affords food 
for the blacks) is probably stiU as abundant as heretofore, particularly towards 
that little known but singularly picturesque and beautiful part of the colony 
bounded by the Upper Murray or Hume River." 

Echuca is the name given by Mr. Strutt as that of the tribe occupying the 
country near the junction of the Goulbum and Campaspe with the Murray. 
Mr. Henry L. Lewis, of Moira, states that the tribe in his immediate neigh- 
bourhood is named Panggarang ; and that on the banks of the Murray and the 
Gk)ulburn, Owanguttha. He says, also, that there is a small tribe on the 
Murray, at and below Moama, named Woollathara. 

Below the Woollathara country, the boundaries of the lands of the tribes 
on the southern banks of the River Murray are well marked. The late Dr. 
Oummow, in reply to enquiries, was kind enough to send me a map, prepared 
mainly by Mr. Peter Beveridge, but partly by Dr. Gummow, showing the areas 
occupied by the Murray tribes firom near Echuca to the junction of the River 
Darling with the Murray. They are as foUows: — 

1. Barrabarbarraba. 5. Waiky-waiky. 

2. Wambar-wamba. 6. Litchy-litchy. 

3. Boora-boora. 7. Yairy-yairy. 

4. Watty-watty. 8. Darty-darty. 

Each name is the negative of the language spoken by the respective 

Mr. Beveridge has written the following note on the map: — ^^It will be 
seen that the territory of the two tribes nearest Echuca does not extend far 
back from the Murray River. The reason for this contraction south-westerly 
was because of the dire feuds that always existed between the Murray tribes 
and those inhabiting the Rivers Campaspe and Loddon. Below Swan Hill the 
Murray tribes, as a rule, used to meet and mingle with those inhabiting the 
Avoca, Avon, and Wimmera Rivers during the winter months in each year. 
The desert scrubs between the two lower tribes and the Tattiara country tribes 
are so extensive that they were precluded from ever meeting." 


Dr. GmnmoWy in a letter to me dated the 9th April 1872^ says that he has 
tested Mr. Beveridge's bonndaries and names of tribes by the Aborigines.them- 
selves, and; with one slight difference^ all agree. 

Dr. Gummow added the area occupied by the Yambaryamba or Wamba- 
wamba tribe. 
. The Yaako-yaako tribe hold the country around Lake Victoria and the 

I am indebted to the Bev. Mr. Hartmann, of the Lake Hindmarsh Station, 
for the divisions of the Wimmera district. The names of the tribes as given 
by him are as follows : — 

1. LaQ-buil - - - - Between Pine Plains and the Biver 


2. Jakelbalak ... Between Fine Plains and Lake Alba- 


3. Kromelak ... Lake Albacutya. 

4. Wanmung Wanmungkur - Lake Hindmarsh. 

5. Kapun-kapunbara - - Kiver Winmiera, towards Lake Hind- 


6. DAwinbarap - - - West of River Wimmera. 

7. Jackalbarap - - - West of Dftwinbarap. 

8. Jarambiuk - - - Yarriambiack Creek (so called). 

9. Whitewurndiuk - - East of Yarriambiack Creek. 

10. Eerabialbarap ... - South of Mount Arapiles. 

11. Murra-murra-barap - - Grampians. 

Mr. Hartmann states that the native tribes oi the Wimmera proper have 
not a common name for aU, although they may be considered as being one and 
the same tribe. 

The boimdaries of the areas occupied by the tribes in the Western district, 
and the names of the tribes, have been communicated by Mr. H. B. Lahe. 
He obtained the information, he states, from Mr. Goodall, the Superintendent 
of the Aboriginal Station at Framlingham. 

Mr* Goodall furnishes the following valuable and interesting list : — 

1. Burhwundeirtch-Kumdeit t- East of Muston's Creek. 

2. Ynarreeb-ynarreeb - - From Mount Sturgeon to Lake Boloke. 

3. Moporh (a country of water- West of the Hopkins Biver. 


* Mr. Eyre, in a report dated 28th May 1842, stated that when he risited Lake Victoria there 
were assembled there five different parties of natives within a distance of three miles. One encamp- 
ment, on the west side of Lake Victoria, was formed of the tribes from a considerable distance 
below the junction of the Rufus and the Mnrraj, and consisted of probably 100 natires. The second 
encampment^ at the junction of the Rufus and Lake Victoria, comprised the Lake tribe and those 
from the Murray or other sides of the Rufus, and numbered about SOO. Three other parties from 
the eastward, inhabiting the country about the Darling and the Rufus, were not less than 200 in 
number. Of these— 600 in all — ^200 were full-grown men. This far exceeded, Mr. Eyre says, any- 
muster that he had preyiously thought it possible the natiyes could make. For sixty miles before 
reaching Lake Victoria he had not seen a single natlre. The people were liying on fi^ they caught 
in the lake, of which they had abundance. 

t Kurndeit signifies a country or tribe, and may be added to any of the names. 



4. Kolore - - - - 

5. Coonawanne . - - 

6. Warmambool (or Pertobe) 

7. Tooram - - - - 

8. Keilambeitch - - - 

9. Leehoorah - - - 

10. Korotch or Koroche - 

11. Momkelank . . - 

12. Weeieitch-weereitch - 

13. Terrin Challum 

14. Purteet Chowel 

15. Termmbehal . • - 

16. Werrupnrrong 

17. Moocherrak - - - 

18. Punnoinjon - - - 

19. Neitcheyong - * - 

20. Yourwychall - - - 

21. Narragoort - - - 

22. MuUungkiU - - . 

23. Barrath « - .. - 

West of Muston's Creek, including Mount 

West of Emu Creek, including Mount 

East of Merri Bivulet to Lake Terang. 
West of Curdie's Creek. 
East of Lake Terang. 
Mount Leura, Lakes Bulleen-Merri and 

East of the Biyer Moyne. 
Between the Biver Moyne and the Biver 

East of Biver Eumeralla. 
East of Salt Creek, including Mount Fyans. 
South-east of Lake Boloke, including 

Mount Hamilton. 
Between the Biyer Hopkins and Fiery 

East of Fiery Creek. 
South-west of the Pyrenees. 
East of the Serra Bange. 
East of Mount William. 
Between the Biyer Wannon and the 

Grange Bum. 
East of Curdie's Creek. 
South of Lake Purrumbete, including 

Mount Pomdon. 
Sherbrooke Creek, including Brown's 


The areas marked out by Mr. Charles Gray, of Nareeb Nareeb, agree yery 
closely with those laid down by Mr. Qxwdall. 

The areas occupied by many of the tribes are small, but each seems to have 
had a fair proportion of water-frontage. 

It would be difficult to subdivide the tract more justly than was done by the 

The late Mr. E. S. Parker has given the following information respecting 
the divisions of a portion of Victoria : — 

'^ I found on my first investigations into the character and position of these 
people that the country was occupied by a number of petty nations, easily di». 
tinguished from each other by their having a distinct dialect or language, as well 
as by other peculiarities. Each occupied its own portion of country, and so, as 
far as I could learn, never intruded on each other's territory, except when 
engaged in hostilities, or invited by regularly-appointed messengers. Thus, 
for the sake of example, the country on the northern and eastern shores of 
Port Phillip Bay and to the northward and westward up to Mount Macedon 
was inhabited by the Wawurrong; the country around Geelong and to the 


northward of that place by the Witowurrong ; * the Upper Goulbum by the 
Taoungnrong ; the Lower Gtoulbum and parts of the Murray by the Pangarang ; 
the plains and tributaries of the Loddon by the Jajowurrong; the Pyrenees 
and country to the westward by the Knindowurrong ; the terminations mirro or 
nmrrang referring evidently to diversity of speech^ as wurrOj wuirrong^ in several 
dialects, mean the mouth, and, by a metonymy, speech or language. The petty 
nations have been erroneously designated trihes^ as the ' Port Phillip tribe,' * the 
Gk>ulbum tribe,' ^ the Loddon tribe,' and so on. But the term tribe is more 
correctly applicable to an association of families and individuals, nearly or 
remotely related to each other, and owning some individual as their head or 
chief. And this distinction exists most clearly among the Aborigines. Each 
of the nations or languages I have instanced, as well as others I have thought 
it too tedious to enumerate, is divided into several tribes, sometimes as many 
as ten or twelve, each of which has a distinctive appellation, known by such 
terminations as hulluk^ people ; goondeetj men ; /ar, or, in other dialects, willam 
or illamy house or dwelling-plaoe. Thus we have on the Goulbum the Taming^ 
illamj ^ the dwellers on the mountain ; ' the Yerrormllamy * the dwellers on the 
river;' and on the Loddon, the KcUkalgoondeetj Hhe men of the forest;' and 
from Pilawin, the native name of the Pyrenees, and Borumbeet, the weU-known 
lake, we have Filanrin^ulluk and Barumbeet-iiUluk. Hie terms MalUgoondeet 
and Millegoondeet are very precise in their application, as indicating the men 
of the Mallee country, or the inhabitants of the banks of the Murray, which is 
known for a very considerable portion of its stream by the native name of Mille. 
One tribe in my own neighbourhood, and a rather numerous one, is designated 
the Wcmg-arror-gerrarj literally the leaves of the stringybark.' Each of these 
tribes had its own district of country — ^its extent at least, and in some instances 
its distinct boundaries, being well known to the neighbouring tribes. The sub- 
division of the territory even went further than that ; each &mily had its own 
locality. And to this day the older men can clearly point out the land which 
their &thers left them, and which they once called their own." f 

Mr. Joseph Parker states that the JorjaW'^r'img was divided into seven 
tribes, as follows : — 

1. Leark-a-buUuk. 4. Wong-hurra-ghee-rar-goondeetch. 

2. Pil-a-uhin-goondeetch. 5. Gkd-gal-bulluk. 

3. Kalk-kalk-goondeetch. 6. Tow-nim-burr-lar-goondeetch. 

7. Way-re-rong-goondeetch. 

* Dr. Thompaon informed the Honorable A. F. A. Greerei that when Gteelong was his sheep- 
ran, with two hundred miles of water frontage^ he ascertained from W. Bncklej and others, to whom 
he had made gifts of blankets, &c., that the Oeelong tribe of Aboriginals numbered one hundred 
and seventy-three souls (men, women, and children). In 1858 thej numbered thirtj-four souls 
only, including but one person under ten years of age. They died chiefly of pulmonary affections, 
and of diseases brought on by orer^indulgenoe in intoxicating liquors. 

There were other causes at work, howeyer, that are not mentioned by Dr. Thompson. When 
the colony was first settled, the diminution in the numbers of the natives was very rapid. Quarrels 
occurred between the whites and the blacks, and how many of the latter were slain will never be 

t The Aboriginci of Au$tr<iUa : A lecture ; by Edward Stone Parker, 1854, pp. 11-12« 



The above claimed as their territory the country extending from Ballan on 
the south to the junction of the Serpentine and the Loddon on the north, and 
from the eastern slopes of Mount Macedon on the east to the Pyrenees on the 


The names of some tribes are inserted in the map on the authority of the 
Local Guardians of Aborigines, whose papers, under the head of " Language," 
may be consulted in reference to the division of the territory in former times. 

The map, though compiled with all possible care from the records in my 
possession, is not as complete as I had intended to make it ; but it is probable 
that settlers throughout the country will add. to it, and amend it; and the 
publication of it may eventually lead to the preparation of a larger and better 


Though I have specially marked only those names of the "petty nations'* 
mentioned by the late Mr. Parker, it is possible that some names printed as 
the appellations of tribes are really those of " nations." I have had to depend 
entirely on the information afforded by my correspondents, and though they 
have, I am quite sure, used all available means to arrive at the truth, there is 
80 much difficulty in ascertaining the facts, that it is necessary to make allusion 
to the possibility of error. 

Mr. Charles Gray, of Nareeb, who was good enough to prepare a map of 
his district, thus writes in a letter, dated January 1872 : — " I have endeavoured 
to procure for you the information required, but the result of my enquiry is not 
at aU satisfactory. Li fact, my informants (born and reared near this) can 
only speak positively as to the boundaries of the lands occupied by their 
own tribe. This I have little doubt will be found the case in almost every 
instance. Li former times, when no native dared cross the boundary of the 
area occupied by his own tribe, there was no opportunity of learning the 
boundaries of the lands of others. And I imagine that it is only from a mem- 
ber of a tribe that has occupied a certain area that the boundaries thereof could 
be learned." 

I have already stated that the map furnished by Mr. Gray agrees as far as 
it goes very closely with the large map furnished by Mr. Goodall. 

My compilation, it may be assumed, is nearly accurate in cases where boun- 
daries are given, and one has only to lament that it is not complete for the 

whole colony. 

The extreme difficulty of ascertaining even approximately the number of 
natives that are in the colony at the present time should teach caution in 
dealing with the estimates made when there was no machinery for collecting 
statistics. The Board for the Protection of the Aborigines has had the 
assistance, during the past sixteen years, of the Honorary Local Guardians 
in all parts of Victoria, and also the benefit of the labors of its salaried 
officers, and yet, even now, no more than a mere estimate of the numbers can 
be given. 

Even an estimate is valuable, and it is much to be desired that the author- 
ities in the other colonies of Australia should ascertain the number of natives 
now living within their territories. 



In the third report of the Board, the nnmber and distribution of the natives 
of Victoria were— on 25th September 1863 — as follows : — 









WawooTong or Yarra tribe • 
Boonoorong or Coast tribe - 

Geelong and Colac tribes 
Gamperdown ... 
Warmambool - • - 
Belfast and Port Tairy - 
Portland .... 

Gasterton ------ 

Balmoral --•-->- 
Hamilton ------ 

Mortlake ------ 

Monnt Emu and Ballarat . - - 
Wickliffe, Mount Rouse, and Hexham - 
Bacchus Marsh . - - - - 

Franklinford •-,.-- 

Yaako-yaako tribe • . - - 
Yarre^yarre tribe - - - - - 

Eamink tribe • - . - - 
Kulkyne, Lower Murray - - - 
Swan Hill, Lower Murray - • . 
Boort, Lower Loddon - ^ • - 
Gunbower ------ 

Cobram •-•••• 

Horsham and yicinity » - - - 
Glenelg and Mount Talbot - - - 
Richardson and Morton Plains 
Lake Hindmarsh and Tidnity 

Campaspe and Echuca * - - - 
Goulbum ------ 

Port Albert -••---- 

La Trobe and Bosedale - - - - 

Macalister, Maffra, Upper Mitchell, 
Omeo» &c. 

Nicholson, Tambo, Bruthen, and Lake 

Buchan, Snowy Birer, &c - • - 



Green - - - 

Thomas - • • 

Green - - - 

Green - - . 

Green . . . 

Green - - . 

Green - . - 

Green . » - 

Green - - - 

Porteons - - . 

Gray - - - 
Maclean and Young- 

Goodwin - 
Goodwin - 
Green - 
Houston * 
Speiseke - 
Speiseke - 

Strutt » 




Green - 

Total Number 

of Men, Women, 


^ ' 























The principle adopted last year has been adhered to in compiling the aboTC return, namely, to 
obtain from one person, where possible, returns for a whole district, using the other returns only as 
a check. The aboTe figures must be taken as approximations only. It would be very difficult and 
expensire to take a census yearly, and no good purpose would be served if it were done. 

There is apparently a reduction in the total numbers amounting to 257, which is accounted for 


thus :— The Taa-Tstty and Lntcbje-lntchye tribes, nmnbering 180, improperly indnded in Mr. 
Goodwin's retnm last jear, are omitted in this ; and, at Swan Hill, Mr. Green conld And only 171 
blacks, less by 44 than last year's retnm. The reduction, therefore, in the total snm is only S3. 

Comparing the tables, district by district, it wiU be seen that the Soathem is I less than last 
year. In the South- Western there is an increase of 71, which is thus accounted for : Franklinford, 
numbering 28, was omitted last year ; and in other cases, more recently, carefnl returns made by 
the Honorary Correspondents hare been substituted for those obtained by Mr. Green during his 
hasty Tistt to the Western district. The difference in the numbers for the North-Westem district 
has been already expUdned; and those obserTed in the Northern, Sonth-Eastem, and North- 
Eastem districts do not call for remark. 

The figures in the table are sufficient to show that the Aborigines are not dcfbreasing so rapidly 
as is generally supposed. If, instead of looking «t the totals, which ai« liable to error for reasons 
already explained^ we compare the returns made by Honorary Correspondents, who hare a complete 
knowledge of the blacks under their charge, and who keep aoouiate acooonts of the births and 
deaths, we shall see that in no case is the diminution Tery startUag, haying regard to the habits and 
present condition of this people. 

It is to be rogrotted that it has been necessary to use last year's returns for some localities ; but 
it is almost unreasonable to expect the Honoraqr Correspondents to make elaborate returns erery 

The Central Board are now in possession of the names and oilier particulars of 1,788 Aborigines ; 
those respecting whom such information is wanting amount to 120, and they are located principally 
at Wickliife, Mount Bouse, Hexham, Bacchus Marsh, and Warrnambool. 

As the aboYe return is imperfect, the Central Board would be glad if Honorary Correspondents 
and others possessing information would communicate with the Secretary. There is reason to 
beUeye that some Aborigines in the central part of Victoria are not included. 

On the Slst May 1869, a very careM return was prepared by Mr. John 
Green, and the estimated total number was 1,834. 

In the seventh report of the. Board — ^onder date 1st August 1871 — ^the 
following statement is made : — ^'^ There is no reason to believe that there haa 
been any great decrease in the number of Aborigines during the last few years. 
It is wrong to suppose because tribes are broken up and dispersed that all the 
members of these tribes have perished. Tribal relations and family ties are 
much interfered with by the whites, who now occupy the whole colony, and 
gladly avail themselves of the services of the blades. Men of the Lower 
Murray take service in Gippsland, and men and women of the Gippsland tribes 
are found in the Western district. At Coranderrk^ there are men, women, and 
children all living amicably with members of the Yarra and Goulbum tribeS| 
who have been gathered from the Upper and Lower Murray, from Gippsland, 
and from the north and south-western parts of the colony. 

'^ During the past seventeen months, the births and deaths reported by the 
Superintendents of the principal stations are as follows : — 

Births. Deaths. 

Coranderrk- .... 9 7 

Lake Wellington - . ... 5 3 

Lake Oondah .... 2 2 

Lake Tyers ...... 3 q 

Lake Hindmarsh .... 3 7 

Framliagham .... — 1 

'' It is not easy accurately to ascertain the nxmibers of the Aborigines, but the 
Board does not hesitate to declare that the oft-repeated statement that the race 
is rapidly disappearing is by no means in accordcuice with &cf 


The difficulty of forming an estimate of the numbers increases year by year. 
There are several natives employed occasionally, and some continuously, on 
sheep stations and farms, and the natives of Victoria now travel a good deal, 
and many cross the border. 

The number of natives under the direct control of the Board, and living 
continuously at the stations formed for the support and education of the 
Aborigines is, at the present time (1876), as follows : — 

Coranderrk ---.---137 
Lake Hindmarsh ------ 67 

Lake Condah ------- 89 

Framlingham ------- 63 . 

Lake Wellington 81 

LakeTyers - ' 63 


An epidemic of measles carried off a large number of natives both in 
Victoria and in the Colony of South Australia during the early part of the 
year 1876. 

Now IJiat the natives are no longer able to follow their old pursuits, now 
that they are cut off from those enjoyments which in their natural state kepi 
them in health, now that they are held in restraint either at the stations estab-* 
lished by the Government or where living in the neighbourhood of places peopled 
by whites, it is probable that the numbers will decrease, and that, as a race, 
they will ultimately be extinguished in Victoria. Nothing that can be provided 
for their sustenance and comfort can compensate for the loss they experience in 
being deprived of their lands, the society of their friends, and the delights of 
the chase. 

Sirtft and <B(titat!0n of (^UUnru 


It may be imagined that the exigencies of savage life require that all the 
members of a tribe shall at all times be ready to move from one place to 
another — ^now for food, now for shelter, now to make war, now to avoid it. The 
sick man must rouse himself in times of trouble, even if his sickness be mortal ; 
and as regards the females, they must obediently serve their masters in every 
season and under all circumstances. Certain events in their lives, however, 
claim the kindness even of their savage husbands, and the sympathy of their 
mothers and sisters. An Aboriginal woman, when she is about to give birth to 
a babe, if not treated in the same manner and with as much care as a civilized 
woman, is not neglected. The little attention she needs is given; the few 
comforts demanded are ordinarily provided ; the help of some aged woman is 
not withheld. * 

When the time of her trouble draws nigh, some one of the old women is 
selected to attend her, and the two withdraw from the main camp and shelter 

* ** Wlien a woman is near her confinement, she remores from the encampment, with some of the 
women to assist her. As soon as the child is horn, the information is conyejed to the father, who 
immediately goes to see the child and to attend upon the mother, hy carrying firewood, water, &c. 
If there are unmarried men and hoys in the camp, as there generally are, the woman and her friends 
are ohliged to remain at a distance in their own encampment. This appears to he part of the same 
superstition which ohliges a woman to separate herself from the camp at the time of her monthly 
illness, when, if a young man or a hoy should approach, she calls out, and he immediately makes a 
circuit to ayoid her. If she is neglectful upon this point, she exposes herself to scolding, and some- 
times to seyere heating hy her hushand or nearest relation, hecause the hoys are told, from their 
infancy, that if they see the woman they will early hecome grey-headed, and their strength will fail 

** If the child Is permitted to liye (I say permitted, hecause they are frequently put to death), it is 
brought up with great care, more than generally falls to the lot of children of the poorer class of 
Europeans. Should it cry, it is passed from one person to another, and caressed and soothed, and 
the father will frequently nurse it for seyeral hours together. 

" Children that are weak, or deformed, or illegitimate, and the child of any woman who has already 
two chUdren aliye, are put to death. No mother will yenture to bring up more than two children, 
because she considers that the attention which she would haye to deyote to them would interfere 
with what she regards as the duty to her husband, in searching for roots, &c. If the father dies 
before a child is bom, the child is put to death by the mother, for the Father who proyides for us all 
is unknown to them. This crime of infanticide is increased by the whites, for nearly all the children 
of European fathers used to be put to death. It is remarkable that when the children are first bom 
they are nearly as white as Europeans, so that the natiyes sometimes find it difficult to say whether 
they are of pure blood or not. In such doubtful cases the form of the nose decides. 

** When the child commences to walk, the father giyes it a name, which is frequently deriyed from 
some circumstance which occurred at the time of the child's birth ; or, as each tribe has a kind of 


themselves in a little radely-constructed miam. The old woman takes the 
child as soon as it is bom, and puts it into a net or rag lined with dry grass, 
and rubs it with the dry grass, and makes it presentable as far as possible with 
that simple treatment. The father, on a given signal, approaches, and provides 
his wife with firewood, water, and sufficient food. The new-born babe has some 
sort of care bestowed on it. The umbilical cord is cut ; it is powdered with a 
dried fungus ; and after a time it is laid on its back and a dry stick is placed 
over its chest to prevent any misbehaviour. There it lies for two or three days, 
with what nourishment is not known ; but generally it is not suflTered to draw 
the natural sustenance from its mother until this weary time has passed. 

As soon as the infant is given to the mother there is general hilarity in the 
camp. The father occasionally nurses the babe, and shows a proper amount of 
pride as he exhibits it now to one and now to another. The young girls eagerly 
contend for the honor of holding the charge ; and for a short time the mother 
is a happy woman, and has a sort of pre-eminence which is gratifying to her ; 
but the necessity for a sudden movement ; the whisper of a war ; the birth of 
one or more children — ^making other mothers happy — ^is enough to put an end 
to her brief period of enjoyment. All the cares of maternity fall heavily and 
suddenly upon her ; and if she is a young mother and this her first-bom, and 
the necessity arises for the tribe to travel, she contemplates with horror the 
pains and anxieties of a prolonged journey, during which she will have to carry 
and nourish her babe, as well as bear the burdens and perform the duties which 
her husband may impose on her. 

Mr. John Green says that the new-bom babe was put into an opossum rug, 
and it would appear that it thereafter became the charge of the mother, who, 

patron or protector in the objects of nature — as Thnnder, the protector of the Kaminjerar; a 
kind of ant, the protector of the Kargarinjerar ; the pelican, a kind of snake, &c., &c., of other 
tribes — ^the father often confers the name of this protector (as the pouch of the peUcan), or a part 
of it, upon the child. Grovn-up persons frequently exchange names, probably as a mark of friend- 

*< Children are suckled by their mothers for a considerable time ; sometimes to the age of Are or 

six years ; and it is no uncommon thing to see a boy, playing with his companions, suddenly leare 
off and run to his mother to refresh himself with a draught of milk. When weaned, he accompanies 
his father upon short excursions (unless he should be delicate and unable to bear the fatigue), upon 
which occasion the father takes erery opportunity to instruct his son. For instance, if they arriye 
at a place concerning which they have any tradition, it is told to the child, if old enough to under* 
stand it. Or he shows him how to procure this or that animal, or other article of food, in the easiest 
way. Until his fourteenth or fifteenth year he is mostly engaged in catching fish and birds, because 
already, for some years, he has been obliged to seek for food on his own account. Thus he early 
becomes in a great measure independent, and there is nobody who can control him, the authority of 
his parents depending only upon the superstitions which they have instilled into him from infancy ; 
end the prohibitions respecting certain kinds of food — ^for different kinds of food are allotted to 
persons of different ages — are enforced by their superstitions. The roes of fishes are appropriated 
to the old men, and it is beliered that if women or young men or children eat of them they will 
become prematurely old. Other kind of meat they consider diminishes the strength of the muscles, 
&c, &c. At certain seasons of the year, when a particular kind of fish is abundant, the men 
frequently declare it to be rambe (holy) ; after which, all that are caught must be brought to the 
men, by whom they are cooked ; and the women and chUdren are not aUowed even to approach the 
fires until the cooking is over and the fish are cold, when they may approach and eat of what the men 
choose to giro them, after having preriously regaled themselves." — H, E. A. Meyer, Mannere and 
Customs of the Aborigines of the Encounter Bay Tribe^ South Australia, 1846, 


without assistance, tended it, and likewise gave attention to her ordinary duties. 
The mother would not be absent from the tribe usually more than a day or two. 
After that lapse of time she would return with her babe and follow her ordinary 

In some parts, when a birth happened near the sea-shore, it was the custom 
to warm the sand on the sheltered side of a sandhill by making a small fire on 
it ; and when the babe was bom a hole was scraped, and it was placed in it and 
cov€9red up to the neck with the warm sand.t After the lapse of a few hours it 
was given to the mother, and her attention to it alone was deemed sufficient. 

Until the child is able to walk pretty well it is carried in the opossum rug 
which is worn by the mother. The rug is so folded as to make a sort of bag at 
the back, in which the infant sits or lies contentedly. Whenever it needs 
refreshment, it extends its arms over the shoulder of the mother, seizes the teat, 
and without difficulty obtains what it needs.j: 

The infants are suckled for long periods ; indeed a child will not relinquish 
this easy mode of procuring a repast until the mother forcibly compels it to get 
a living for itself. And while very small — ^but yet able to move about only on 
hands and knees — ^it has a little stick put into its hands, and, following the 
example of elder children, it digs for roots, for the larvae of ants, for such 
living things as it can find in decayed wood, and sometimes for the native 
bread (Mylitta Aiistralis) where it is plentiftil, and when the elder children are 
willing to help the little one. The infant soon learns to kill small lizards, and 
these, and the more easily procured kinds of food that the bush affords, serve to 
strengthen and &tten it.§ 

* '' From the nature of the food naed by the natiyes, it is necessary that a child should haye 
good strong teeth before it can be eyen partially wean^. The natiye women, therefore, suckle 
their children until they are past the age of two or three years, and it is by no means uncommon to 
see a fine healthy child leaye off playing and run up to its mother to take the breast. 

''The natiye women suffer much less pain during the period of labor than Europeans; directly 
the child is bom it is wrapped in opossum skins, and strings made of the fur of this animal are tied 
like bracelets round the infant's wrists and ankles, with the intention of rendering it, by some 
supernatural means, a stronger and a finer child. They are always much prouder of a male than of 
a female child.'*-— Jbuma^r of Two Expeditiont of Discovery, Grey, yol. n., p. 250. 

t This custom preyails amongst the tribes of the west coast of New Guinea ; and Capt. Cadell 
informs me that a black of Amhem Land, when " on the track *' by himself, and when it would be 
dangerous to light a fire, thus makes his bed at night. He scoops a hole in the sand, and buries him- 
self all but his face, where he sleeps comfortably, free firom mosquito bites. 

% The women of the Moghrebin Arabs carried their children at their backs, suspended in a 
shawl BO folded as to form a bag; and in Ethiopia they were carried in baskets, supported at the 
mother's back by a band passing oyer the forehead. A wood-cut in Wilkinson's Ancient EgjfpHanM 
shows how mothers carried their children in Thebes. — See yoL n., p. 830. 

§ *' There is a small cichoraceous plant named TSio by the natiyes, which grows with a yellow 
flower in the grassy places near the riyer [Darling], and on the root of this chiefly the children subsist. 
As soon almost as they can walk, a little wooden shoyel is put into their hands, and they learn thus 
early to pick about the ground for these roots and a few others, or dig out the larytB of ant-hills." 

** The gins neyer carry a child in arms as our females do, but always in a skin on the back. 
The infant is merely seized by an arm and thrown with little care oyer the shoulders, when it soon 
finds the way to its warm berth in the skin, holding by the back of the mother's head while it slides 
down into it. These women usually carry, besides their children thus mounted, bags containing aU 
things that they and the men possess; the contents consisting of nets for the hair or for catching 


Mirr-rCyong, a kind of white radish bearing a yellow flower, is dug up and 
eaten by the children and adults in all places where it grows. 

The children are made to swim in the waters of the rivers and creeks at 
a very early age. Both girls and boys of tender years are thrown into the 
water in sport, and they so soon acquire the art of swinmiing rapidly and well 
that it is only when the first experiments are made that the parents trouble 
themselves with them. A young girl will spring from the bank into a deep 
water-hole, and dive and rise again to get breath in such a way, sometimes, 
when she is pursued either earnestly or in sport, as to baffle even young active 
men. The natives swim differently from Europeans, back foremost and nearly 
upright, as if treading the water.* 

The toy weapons which are made for the use and amusement of the children, 
the care that is taken in teaching the boys to throw the spear, to use the stone 
tomahawk, the shield, and the club; the instruction that is given them in 
climbing trees, using the net, and in digging for the wombat — ^make them even 
when young quite accomplished bushmen.f They are obliged to be observant 
of small things, which in their mode of life have a significance and a value 
unknown to civilized men. They are trained to follow the tracks of animals, 
and to recognise by the faintest indications the near presence of birds and 
reptiles. Botany, zoology, and topography are taught in the open air, and the 

ducks; whet^stones; yellow, white, and red ochre; pins for dressing and drying opossum skins or for 
net-making; smaU boomerangs and shoyels for the children's amusement; and often many other 
things apparently of little use to them.** — T. L, Mitchell, toI. i., pp. 832-3. 

** The young natives of the interior usually carry a small wooden shovel, with one end of which 
they dig up different roots and with the other break into the large ant-hills for the larvsB, which 
they eat ; the work necessary to obtain a mouthful even of such indifferent food being thus really 
more than would be sufficient for the cultivation of the earth according to the more provident 
arrangements of civilized men. Tet, in a land affording such meagre support, the Australian savage 
is not a cannibal, while the New Zealander, who inhabits a much more prodnctiye region^ notoriously 
feasts on human flesh."— 71 Z. Miicheli, vol. u., p. 344. 

• T. L. Mitchell, toI. i., p. 270. 

t In Southern Africa, Mr. Baines found, amongst the Ovambos, a child's toy made of the fruit 
of the baobab; Dr. Livingstone says that amongst the Makololo there are games practised by the 
children which are mostly imitations of the serious work performed by their parents; the children of 
the Wanyamuezl tribe have mock hunts, and play with the bow and arrow; the children of the 
Shooas have skipping ropes; the New Zealand infants and youths spin tops, fly kites, throw smaU 
spears, and dive and swim; the Mincopies make small toy bows and arrows for their young, teach 
them to use them, and exercise them also in diving and swimming; and the Fijians have such 
children's games as are common in Europe, and another game very similar to one known to the 
Australians: — ''The players hare a reed about four feet in length, at one end of which is an oval 
piece of hard and heavy wood some six inches in length. This instrument is held between the thumb 
and middle flnger, the end of the foreflnger being applied to its extremity. With a peculiar under- 
hand jerk the player drires it horizontally, so that it glides oyer the ground for a considerable 
distance, the player who sends the missile farthest being the winner. In order that this favorite 
game may be constantly played, each village haa attached to it a long strip of smooth sward, which 
is kept sedulously trimmed, so that the missile may skim along with as little resistance as possible." 
-^The Natural History of Man, by J. G. Wood, vol. n., p. 288. 

The Fijian children have many other games. 

In Borneo the youths are proficient in games known to European children, and amongst all the 
sarage nations there are proofs that the education of the young — ^with a view to the proper perform- 
ance of such exercises as they conceive most conducive to profit and happiness — is not neglected by 
the parents. 



pupils are apt. How few amongst educated Europeans could compete with 
these children of Nature in the arts which they have cultivated t 

A correspondent, who some twenty years ago had a station near Tering, on 
the River Yarra, and who subsequently had much experience of the native 
character in the southern and western parts of Victoria, had once, he informs 
me, in the early days of the settlement of the colony, some opportunities of 
observing the methods of tuition pursued by the natives. On one occasion he 
saw an old woman attended by a great number of girls, who appeared to be 
under her care, and engaged in useful employments. The old woman gathered 
materials with her own hands and built for herself a miam, and then with great 
care, and with many words of instruction, caused each girl to build a small miam 
after the pattern of the large one. She showed the girls where and how to 
collect gum, and where to put it ; she caused them to gather rushes, and, with 
the proper form of rounded stone in their hands, instructed them in the art of 
weaving the rushes into baskets ; she made them pull the right kind of grasses 
for making other kinds of baskets and rough nets, and she showed them how the 
fibres were prepared, and how nets and twine were made ; she took from her 
bag the woolly hair of an opossum, and taught them how, by twisting it under 
the hand over the inner smooth part of the thigh, it could be made into a kind 
of yam or thread ; and in many ways and on many subjects she imparted 
instruction. She was undoubtedly a schoolmistress — a governess ; but how long 
she kept her pupils at work, or under what conditions they were entrusted to 
her care, were subjects on which my correspondent could obtain no informa- 

On another occasion the same gentleman saw an old man accompanied by a 
number of boys — some of tender years and others nearly full grown — ^who 
appeared to be receiving instruction in the several arts by which a savage gains 
a living in the forest. The old man, whether merely to aflPord the boys amuse- 
ment or to teach them the proper method of throwing the spear, engaged in the 
following pastime. A piece of bark was cut from a tree and formed into a disc 
somewhat larger than a dinner-plate, and this was put into the hands of one of 
the elder boys. Having selected an open space of tolerably smooth sward, the 
game commenced. The boys were placed in a row, and each was provided with a 
light spear ; the elder boy, who held the disc, stood at some distance in front of 
the row, and at a given signal he hurled the bark disc — ^not as a cricketer usually 
throws a ball, but downwards from the shoulder, and with a peculiar jerk — so 
as to give the disc a ricochet-like movement as it bounded rather than rolled 
along the grass. Each little boy in turn threw his spear. Few hit the disc, 
but those that struck it or came very near it were complimented by the old man 
and by their fellows. The attitude of the boys, their eagerness, the attention of 
the old man, the triumph exhibited in his countenance when better play than 
usual was made, and the modest demeanour of the most successfiil spearman, 
formed a picture which was very pleasing. Other exercises followed this per- 
formance, and their aged instructor seemed to delight in the work which he had 
taken in hand. Obedience, steadiness, fair-play, and self-command were incul- 
cated by the practices which were witnessed. 


All those who have had opportunities of observing the habits of the Abori- 
gines in their natural state bear witness to the fact that parents are kind and 
indulgent to their children ; and the men and women of a tribe who are not 
related to the infants are always forbearing and gentle in their treatment of 
them. They neglect them very often, however, and accidents happen to them 
in consequence of such neglec*. The infants crawl near the camp-fires, and get 
burnt ; they fall asleep under a tree, and get stung by insects ; they labor 
amongst the branches of a fallen tree, and injure themselves ; and they are some- 
times bitten by the dogs when they endeavour to take away food from them ; 
but deliberate cruelty is very different from neglect, which may arise, and most 
often does arise, from the indolence of the parents. That there are instances, 
occasionally, of culpable negligence should not warrant us in stating that the 
affection of the Australian parents for their children is less than that of the best 
educated amongst Europeans.* 

The Australians do not as a rule attempt to alter or improve the appearance 
of the children by compressing the head or flattening the nose. Such practices 
may be followed in some parts, but in Victoria nothing is known of them. The 
infants are allowed to grow up as Nature intended that they should grow. 

The flattening of the head and the squeezing of the nose as practised 
amongst the Tahitans, the distortions brought about by the cradle used by the 
tribes inhabiting the Columbia River, the Chinese mode of shortening and 
thickening the foot, and the European custom of compressing the ribs of females 
by a cruel framework of whalebone, are all unknown to the Australians. 

In the treatment of their children generally they are undoubtedly superior 
in some respects to the more civilized races. 

The concurrent testimony of many writers who have had abundant oppor- 
tunities of observing the habits of the Aborigines leaves no room for doubt that 
the practice of infanticide is almost universal amongst the tribes in the savage 
and half-civilized state. 

Mr. Charles Wilhelmi says that ^^if, as it but seldom occurs, children are 
bom in a fiunily quick, one aft;er another, the youngest is generally destroyed in 
some out-of-the-way place, by some woman, accompanied, for this purpose, by 
the mother herself. From the excess of male adults alive, it may fairly be pre- 
sumed that a by far greater number of girls than of boys are done away with in 
this manner. As an apology for this barbarous custom, the women plead that 
they cannot suckle and carry two children together. The men clear themselves 
of all guilt, saying that they are never present when these deeds are committed, 
and that, therefore, all blame rests with the women." 

* That the Aborigfaieji are aflbcilonate 19 weU known ; bnt it ia not weU known that thej are 
generaU^ rexy jndifnouB in the treatment of infanta and yonng children. If clothing la neceaaarj, 
the children are properly clothed ; if any aort of covering ia nnneceaaary, there ia none giren to 
them. European mothera in thla colony Tery frequently put extraordinary garmenta on their chil- 
dren of a ahowy bnt unaubatantial aort. The lega, thigha, and neck, and often part of the cheat, 
are left bare ; the poor infanta are taken In thia wretched condition from a warm nuraery, and made 
to wander at a alow pace in the depth of winter through what are called " gardena." The nurae- 
girla ait with them for houra in auch placea on the damp graaa ; and ia it atrange that we hare, 
therefore, aa common diaeaaea, catarrh, diphtheriay ftc. ? 


Mr. Peter Beveridge, writing of the habits of the Lower Murray Aborigines, 
confirms this statement. "Infanticide," he writes, "is often practised, and 
meals are too often made by mothers of their own offspring. This practice is 
attributable to laziness principally ; for if a mother has two children, one two 
years old, and the other just bom, she is sure to destroy the youngest." 

Mr. W. E. Stanbridge, already well known as an accurate observer of the 
customs of the natives, is also compelled to speak of this unnatural practice. 
He describes them as cannibals of the lowest description. "New-bom babes 
are killed by their parents, and eaten by them and their children. When such 
revolting occurrences take place, the previously-born child is unable to walk, and 
the opinion is that, by its eating as much as possible of the roasted infant, it 
will possess the strength of both." 

The Bev. F. A. Hagenauer knows of only one case of an attempt to kill a 
new-bom babe. It was buried alive in the sand, but was rescued by a relative. 
This child, now sixteen years of age, is living at Lake Wellington. Mr. Hagen- 
auer says that it was a common practice of the Gippsland Aborigines in former 
days to bury new-born babes alive in the sand. 

Mr. Gason, writing of the Dieyerie tribe (Cooper's Creek), says: — ^^^The 
children are never beaten, and should any woman violate this law, she 
is in turn beaten by her husband. Notwithstanding this tenderness for their 
remaining offspring, about thirty per cent, are murdered by their mothers at 
their birth, simply for the reasons — ^firstly, that many of them marrying very 
young, their first-born is considered immature, and not worth preserving ; and, 
secondly, because they do not wish to be at the trouble of rearing them, espe- 
cially if weakly. Indeed, all sickly or deformed children are made away with, in 
fear of their becoming a burden to the tribe. The children so destroyed are 
generally smothered in sand, or have their brains dashed out by some weapon : 
the men never interfering, or any of either sex regarding infanticide as a crime. 
Hardly an old woman, if questioned, but will admit of having disposed in this 
manner of from two to four of her offspring," 

The Bev. Geo. Taplin says that "infanticide is not prevalent amongst the 
Narrinyeri (Lower Murray and Lakes) at the present time. Thirteen years ago 
one-third of the infants which were bom were put to death. Every child which 
was bom before the one which preceded it could walk was destroyed, because 
the mother was regarded as incapable of carrying two. All deformed children 
were killed as soon as bom. Of twins, one, and ofi;en both, were put to death. 
About one-half of the half-caste infants fell victims to the jealousy of the hus- 
bands of the mothers. Many illegitimate children — that is, children bom before 
their mothers were given in marriage — ^were murdered."* 

* Mr. Taplin adds to this statement the following: — ^''This terrible crime of infanticide is 
corered up and concealed from the obseryation of the whites with extreme care. The bush life 
which they lead affords ererj facility for so doing. I was mjself for some time in ignorance that it 
existed to sach an extent as it does. Only yery intimate acquaintance with the natives led me to 
discover its prevalence. I remember two instances of it In one, the mother hated the child, 
because she had been given in marriage to its father against her will ; therefore, with the assistance 
of another female, she murdered it in the most brutal manner. The other was an illegitimate child 
of a girl called Fompanyerlpooritye. I was informed of the birth, and got the nearest relatiyes to 


"Should a child be bom," says Grey, "with any natural deformity, it is 
frequently killed by its parents soon afterwards. In the only instances of this 
kind which have come within my own knowledge, the child has been drowned." 

On the evidence of Protectors and others, collected by a Colonial Magistrate, 
it is stated that children are often held over a fire by the mother, and stifled ; 
that children dying a natural death are immediately eaten ; and that in one case 
a mother and her children were discovered enjoying, as a sweet repast, one of 
the same family.* 

Mr. Westgarth considers that the practice of infanticide is well authenticated. f 

It is not nedbssary to inform the reader that infanticide is a crime which is 
not restricted to the Aborigines of Australia. In other countries where there are 
savage peoples the infants are killed and eaten. Whether this revolting practice 
has its origin in the superstitious belief that the elder child will be stronger and 
braver if fed upon the roasted flesh of the infant, or whether it is in some cases 
forced upon the parents by the want of animal food, or is simply a means of 
getting rid of an encumbrance, which to retain would embarrass the tribe and 
retard its movements, cannot be ascertained. On such subjects the Aborigines 
are usually reticent, or, if obliged to speak, do not always tell the truth. All the 
motives may, in some cases, operate in deciding the fate of a new-bom child. 

Is it possible that this custom is only common where the tribes have been 
brought into contact with the whites ? Is it the half-castes only that are 
destroyed? One would willingly believe that it was only when demoralized by 
intercourse with the lower classes of whites that this crime was committed ; but 
the facts I have cited, and the proportions of the sexes amongst the tribes in the 
interior, would seem to show that it is not due to intermixture with the Euro- 
peans, but is and has always been a recognised and approved custom. Though 
no less revolting because a custom, it ceases to be a crime if we make the 
members of the tribes themselves the judges. 

It is not a rite — ^it is not a sacrifice. It is most probably a means of limiting 
the population : .and, if this be the explanation, who can say that the murder of 
infants under peculiar conditions may not result in averting great calamities, 
and indeed be the prevention of other even more horrible offences ?$ Australia^ 
as will be clearly shown in this work, is divided into districts beyond which 
members of tribes may not, except under certain circumstances, travel ; a tribe 

promise that the child's life should be spared. But an old sarage named Katjirene, a relatire of the 
lepated father, was offended at this forbearance ; so he set the wnrlej on fire in which the mother 
and infant were lying, and yery nearljr accomplished the destruction of both. I soon after found 
that the child was suffering and pining from some internal injury, and in about forty-eight hours it 
died. I hare no doubt that foul play was the cause of its death, for it was a fine healthy child when 
it was newly bom." — The Narrinyeri, by the Rer. Geo. Taplln, 1874. 

* Remarks on the probable Origin and Antiguitif qf the Nattvee qf New South Wales, by a 
Colonial Magistrate, 1846, p. 19. 

t A Report on the Conditiomt CapahiUtiee, and Prospects of the Australian Aborigines, by W. 
Westgarth, 1846. 

X <*Then, again, their ciutoms with respect to marriage probably originated in a strong necessity 
lor repressing the numbers of the population. History teaches that in oonntries where polygamy is 
encouraged population seldom increases. The Australian Aborigines not only practised polygamy, 
and surrounded marriage with all possible difficulties, but their cvatoms were each as were calculated 


cannot demand nor purchase food from a neighbouring tribe ; the men cannot 
cultivate the soil ; and the soil of their territory can maintain but a certain 
number of human beings ; and if a rule has been established in consonance with 
a law of Nature, are we right in rashly and rudely condemning as criminals those 
who practise obedience to the obligations which the rule enforces? Surely 
enough is known of the many crimes which our own social laws render inevitable 
to cause us to regard even infanticide amongst this people rather in the light of 
a custom which they are compelled to observe than as a crime — a crime which 
amongst civilized nations is justly considered heinous. No one would attempt 
to extenuate the practice — ^the Aborigines themselves are ashaibed of it — ^but it 
is surely right to tell the truth about it. 

It is only after they have been taught the truths of religion, and made 
acquainted with the solemn obligations which rest on the parents, and when 
they are provided with necessary food, that we can visit on them punishments 
for such offences.* 

Ignorant persons might regard what has been stated by authors respecting 
the customs of the natives of Australia as an apology for infanticide. They 
have, however, but made known the facts, and their statements are in themselves 
only a defence of the Aborigines against the injustice of imputing to them as a 
crime a practice perhaps necessary to their existence* Infanticide — ^the whites 
affect to believe — ^is a monstrous thing amongst savage and barbarous nations ; 
but every newspaper one reads gives accounts of cases of infanticide, as practised 
by our own people, far more horrible than any known to the Australians or 

to render the offspring of those who were married as few as possible. When a female infant was 
bom, if her life was preserved (which was rery frequently not the case, for Infanticide was general), 
she was promised as a wife to one of the men of the tribe— -rery often to an old man who was 
already the possessor of two or three gins. Most of the yonng and many of the middle-aged men 
were consequently doomed to remain bachelors, unless they could steal or otherwise procure a wife 
from another tribe, a thing which was generally an exceedingly difficult matter to accomplish, seeing 
that unmarried females were almost equally scarce in all the tribes. Either a desire to aroid the 
charge of too numerous a progeny, or the impossibility of procuring a supply of food suitable for 
Tery young children, or perhaps both these causes combined, prolonged the time during which 
Aboriginal mothers suckled their children to the unusual period of three, four, nnd sometimes even 
fire years. Other children were often born during this period— for gestation did not in their case 
interfere with lactation — ^but these were almost invariably sacrificed. Custom in this case appears 
to hare sanctioned what necessity demanded. The natural food which the mother could provide waa 
barely enough for the unweaned child already dependent upon it, and there was no artificial means 
of supplementing it so as to render it sufficient for two."— -T^e HUtmy ofAuitralian Diweovenf and 
Colonization^ by Samuel Bennett, pp. 853-4. 

* When twins are bom, the Kaffirs destroy one of the children, because they beUeve the parents 
would not be prosperous if the two were allowed to live ; the Aplngi believe that the mother would 
die if one of the twins was not murdered; In New Zealand, sickly and deformed children are killed; 
the natives of Savage Island formerly destroyed all illegitimate children ; and the Ehonds of India, 
imder the guidance of their priests, merdlessly slay children — male and female — ^if the omens be 

The cruel practices of many tribes In Africa, the atrocities perpetrated by the inhabitants of 
Polynesia, and the still more dreadful human sacrifices of the priest-ridden peoples of India, have no 
parallels in Australi&. Parenticide, the wholesale murder of wives or young girls when a head-man 
or chief dies, the offering of innocent children to heathen gods, or neglect of the aged, cannot be 
imputed to the AustraUan savage. The Australians are children — ening children— but they err 
because of ignorance or ftom necessi^. They are not natorally cruel to their offspring. 



Polynesians. Baby farmings the strangling of infants^ the crael destraction by 
mothers of their progeny by hiding them xmder fences, by laying them on cold 
door-steps, or throwing them into pits, are practices employed by those who 
enjoy the results of many centuries of civilization. At the moment I write the 
daily press is teeming with accounts of awful crimes of this description ; and it 
is painful to read the leading articles in which the crime of infanticide is 
discussed. The white mother kills her infant in the vain hope of preserving her 
social position — ^high or low — of concealing the error or crime which preceded 
the birth ; the black woman simply, I believe, because she is not capable of 
supporting her offspring, or in order to render impossible an increase of popula- 
tion which the food-resources of the tribe would be unable to meet. Amongst 
the whites this awful crime is often committed in obedience to laws made by 
man — amongst the natives of Australia the practice is followed in obedience 
to laws which necessity compels them to keep.* 

• ISfAMINa CniLDREir. 

The first name given to a child is dependent on some accident at its birth — 
on the sudden appearance of a kangaroo or other animal, on the birth taking 
place at a well-marked locality, or under a tree of a particular species.t And 
it is named also from any peculiarities that it may present. 

The late Mr. Thomas says that one man in the Melbourne district was 
named Ber-uke (kangaroo-rat), in consequence of a kangaroo-rat running 
through the miam at his birth. Poleeorong (cherry-tree) was so called because 
he was bom under the shelter of a native cherry-tree. Weing-pam (fire and 
water) was so denominated in consequence of the miam catching fire and the 
fire being put out by water at the time of his birth. Wonga^ the head-man of 
the Yarra tribe, was bom at Wonga (Arthur's Seat), and thus has the name. 

*A thousand cases of inf aaticide, recorded in the newspapers here and in European oonntries^ 
far more disgusting in the details than any known to hare disgraced the Aborigines of Australia, 
could be cited. 

The author of Sybil tells us that '< In&nticide is practised as extensirely and as legally in 
England as it is on the banks of the Ganges." 

f *<One remarkable custom preTalent equally amongst the most ancient nations of whom any 
records are preserred, and the modem Australians, is that of naming children from some circum- 
stance connected with their birth or early infancy. Thus in Oenesis, ch.zzx.9Ter. II.— 'And 
Leah said, A troop cometh, and she called his name Gad ;' &a, &c., &c. 

** Burckhardt obserred the same custom among the Bedouins, and says, 'A name is given to the 
Infant immediately on his bhrth ; the name is derired from some trifling accident, or from some 
object which had struck the fancy of the mother or any of the women present at the child's 
birth.' ''-^North- West and WuUm Australia, by George Grey, toL n., p. 843. 

The child of a Kaffir is sometimes called by the name of the day on which it is bom. If a wild 
beast, such as a lion or a jackal, were heard to roar at the time the diild was bom, the circumstance 
would be accepted as an omen, and the child called by the name of the beast or by a word which 
represents its cry. 

*'Mr. Shooter mentions some rather curious examples of these names. If the animal which was 
heard at the time of the child's birth were the hyena, which is called iwipisi by the natires, the name 
of the child might be either U'mpisi or U-hu-hu, the second being an imitatiye sound representing 
the laugh-like cry of the hyena. . . • The name of Panda, the king of the Zulu tribes, is in 
reality U-mpande, a name derired from impande, a kind of root." — The Natural History qf Man^ 
by J. G. Wood, vol. i., p. 88. 

The Kaffir, like the Australian, has a strong objection to tell his real name to strangers. 


In the Western district natives get their names in the same way. One, 
Tahchet Mahrung^ from the pine-tree (Mahrung) ; another Yarette or Jurh (the 
Mallee-tree) ; and a third Wungawette^ like the name of a place on Pine Plains. 
A boy was named Braimunnin (to cut or pierce as with a spear), and a girl 
Nepumin (to bury or hide). 

Mr. Stanbridge says it was the eastern to give names of nataral objects to 
both males and females. 

Elsewhere such a name as Colabatyin (turkey), or BulkAinna (sheep), or 
Bonyea (a part of the body) was given to a male. 

Sometimes they have nick-names, as Yanguia (left-handed), Murra Muthi 
(bad-handed), or KcUo wirto (little man). 

The Eev. Mr. Taplin, writing of the Narrinyeri, says that it is unlucky to 
name a child until it can walk, and that the name is generally significant 
of the place of birth. One bom at a place called Rilge was called Rilgewal. 
But the name thus given is not permanent. Other names are takei^ subse- 
quently — as, for instance, on arriving at manhood ; and if the name chosen 
happen to be one similar to that of a member of the tribe who dies, it is 
again changed. And he says, ^^ It is also very common for a mother or father 
to bear the name of a child. This is effected by adding the termination ami 
for father, or annike for mother, to the name of the child. For instance, 
KoolnuUinye ami is the father of KoolrMUinyeri^ and Koolmatinye annike is the 
mother of Koolmatinyeri.^^ 

Mr. Howitt gives an account, as related by Toolabar, a well-known native, 
of the manner of naming children in Gippsland : — 

^^ A child is not named until it is about three years old. Till then it is 
called 'Leet' or ^ Tally Leet' or Quenjung— child or girl (or sister). Billy says 
he should say — (pointing to my little girl, aged three) — * Come here ' ' Leet 
bittel,' Le.j * my child.' When a child is about three or upwards the friends 
may think it well to name it, or the father may think so. Some name is given 
it which has belonged to a deceased relative. The father, for instance, asks his 
murnmungor^Barbuck'— or 'Waintwin' or *Waintjin,' ^Cookum' or ^Nallung' 
— ^for a name. Toolabar says that in a year or two he will give the name of 
his brother Barney to Kangaroo Jack. Barney died about ten years ago. 
Kangaroo Jack's father was the brother of Billy Toolabar's present wife Mary — 
therefore he is considered * Billy's wife's brother.' Toolabar was named in the 
way I have stated by his mother after his ' Brebba Mungan,' who was killed 
by the Brar-jer-ack blacks (Maneroo) many years before. This relationship 
stands thus : — 

Grandfather, Grand Uncle^ Grand Aunt, 
Bimgil Tay»a-baag Bnnga Wnntwnn A Sister 

Bembi nkel A blackfellow 

(name forgotten), 
the Brebba Mungan 
Toolabar who named Toolabar. 

In this case it will be seen that Bembinkel and the sponsor for Toolabar are 
considered ^brothers,' therefore he is Toolabar's 'Mungan,' or father. Billy 


then tells me that he was called ' Bnrrmnbnlk ' (the teal)^ who he says was a 
*Barbuck' (mother's brother), also killed long ago by Brar-jer-acks. (This 
looks like a confusion of the same persons. He is not very dear about it.) 
When he was made a * young man/ he was called Toolabar by his * Barbuck,' 
Bungil Laen-buke. The former Toolabar was also a ^Barbuck' of Billy 
Toolabar, or, rather, a ^Brebba Barbuck,' i.e.y probably his mother's cousin, 
or the wife of his father's sister's husband. It was this wise. BiUy had been 
out from the camp for some time, and the elders had said among themselves, 
^It is time that Burrumbulk' (his then name) ^had a name.' BungU Laen- 
buke called biTTi < Toolabar.' When he returned some one called out (I think 
Bungil Laen-buke), * Here, Toolabar I' Burrumbulk took no notice of it. He 
was called again. At last he said, ^What are you calling Toolabar?' ^Oh, 
that is your name.' 'My name! AH right.' Thus he was named. He was 
caught, as a young lad (I don't know if before or after the naming 'Toolabar'), 
by tiie Macleods of Buchan, and thus got his name ' Billy Madeod.' He has 
been also nick-named ' Tam-jill,' the Jabberer — ^incessant talker. He may, as 
he gets older, be called some other name. I told him to-day he should be called 
'Bungil Eune,' or 'Bungil Tangoura,' i.e.j Mr. Stringybark, as his occupation 
each winter is stripping bark. He said, ' By-and-by might get name.' The 
prefix to the names of ^Btmgily Billy says, may be translated 'Mr.' ; at any 
rate he can give no other meaning. It is only borne by the old men. There are 
no ceremonies about giving names. At present the customs are much relaxed. 
This autumn, at hop-picking, a number of blacks were here, and one gin had 
a baby. All hands had a word in the name which was given it when a week 
old. But it was to be a whitefellow name, Edwarid. The following are some 
of the names : — 

Bungil B&r-le-jdni - - Plaiypus. 

Bungil T&mboon - - Gippsland perdu 

Bungil Lien-buke - • Lake Bunga^ near entrance to Lakes. 

Bungil Woor-een • - The sun. 

Bungil Bal-look • - Blue-gum. 

Bungil Tay-Srbun - - A sooty water-hen on the Lakes ; a coot. 

Bungil Wr^ggal-luck - From wreggilj long, thin, straggling, and 

gcdlaghy a tree. 

Bungil Br&m-ar-mng - Newland's Backwater, on the Lakes. 

Bungil D6w-ung-un - The crooked elbow of a big tree, from 

which bark for a canoe can be stripped. 

Bungil Bam - - - The wild dog. 

Bungil Neer-wun - - A mosquito. 

Bungil Gnar-rung - - A maggot. 

Bungil Bottle - - A name given lately to a drunken blackfellow. 

Among the above the names will mostly explain themsdves. The first one, 
Bungil Bar-le-jaru, 'Mr. Platypus,' used to spear many of those creatures. 
Bungil Laen-buke frequented Lake Bunga. Bungil Dow-ung-un, because he 
made his canoes from the elbows of trees ; and Bungil Bottle, 'Mr. Bottle,' in 
detifiion of the bearer's drunken habits. Old Mr. Burgess, who looked after the 



hop gronndfl at Coranderrk, is known to the blacks as ^Bungil Hop.' Toolabar 
named him, and he has no other name with the Aborigines. Other names are : — 

Windi-gaerwnt - - A creek. 

W6rk-wiickanby - - Wonga pigeon. 

Woorail by - - - Lyrebird i 

Broo-umby - - - Pelican | Borne by one person. 

Torngatty (a woman) - Heavy body. (I have softened the translation 

of this name.) 
Many of the names have now no meaning, having been handed down perhaps 
for centuries ; thongh I have little donbt they all originally referred to some 
person's peculiarities, or some circumstance attending the birth of the child 
or its after-life. Of women's names I may add — B6-al-mar-ung, B61-gan, of 
which I do not know the meaning. Toolabar would not tell me his first wife's 
name, he said ^ Annie' (his daughter) * would not like it;' nor would he tell 
me his present wife's name. They seem to have no scruple about their 
European names ; and I now notice that I only know the above native female 
names. The male names I have given, and others I cannot at the moment recall." 

CoMiNa OF Aqb of Young Men and Young Women. 

Special enquiries have been made with much care respecting the ceremonies 
practised by tiie natives of Victoria when a young man or a young woman, 
having arrived at maturity, is admitted to the privileges enjoyed by those of 
mature age. The subject is beset with difficulties. The rites are always 
performed in secret ; and in their savage state any native who would venture 
to relate the occurrences attendant on the initiation of a young man to these 
solemn mysteries would probably forfeit his life. Some amongst the Aborigines, 
however, well acquainted with all such practices, have separated from their 
tribes and are living with the whites ; and some tribes that have not yet 
relinquished any of their customs are so far tamed as to admit a white friend 
occasionally to the secret meetings at which their more awful ceremonies are 
performed ; and therefore, as will be seen from the statements here given, much 
has been gathered relative to these strange practices. 

From my correspondents a great deal of valuable information has been 

Mr. Thomas has described the rites known as Tib-but and Mur-rum Tur-uk- 
ur-uk. From Mr. Howitt I have received an account of the ceremony known as 
Jerryalej "the making of young men;" the Rev. George Taplin and Mr. 
Wilhelmi relate, in their published papers, what has been ascertained respecting 
similar ceremonies in South Australia ; and I have also gathered from several 
works what I could in reference to initiation. * 

* Some of the tribes in Africa practise customs, on the coming of age of young persons, which 
Terj mnch resemble those obserred in varions parts of Australia. 

Mr. W. VTinwood Beade sajs : — " Before they are permitted to wear clothes, marry, and rank in 
society as men and women, the young have to be initiated into certain mysteries. I received some 
information upon this head from Mongilomba, after he had made me promise that I would not put 
it into my book : a promise which I am compelled to break by the stern duties of my Yocatioo. He 
told me that he was taken into a fetich-house, stripped, severely flogged, and plastered with 


Nothing, I believe, is known of the origin of the rites here described ; they 
have been practised, undoubtedly, during a period incalculable ; but, it may be 
conjectured, they were made a part of the laws of this people, for the purpose 
of separating clearly those classes, inferior because of their youth and status, 
from those to whom belonged the right to take part in battles, to choose wives, 
to indulge in certain luxuries, and to exercise, with restrictions prescribed by the 
form of tribal government, power and authority. Without some such mode of 
denoting the classes to which privileges belonged, there would have been confti- 
sion and constant quarrels. 

It is not certain that the rites known as MuT-rum Tur-uk-ur-uky or any rites 
on a girl attaining maturity, were generally observed throughout Australia ; but 
it is at least probable that in all parts some sign was given when a female 
arrived at a marriageable age ; otherwise there would have been amongst all 
the tribes a possibility of the frequent occurrence of crimes similar to those 
which disgrace the whites ; and in the absence of any means of denoting those 
who had arrived at maturity, there would have been a difficulty in bringing an 
offender to punishment. No account of any crime of this class has come to my 
knowledge as having occurred amongst natives living in their natural wild 

goat duDg ; this ceremony, like those of masonry, being conducted to the sound of music. Afterwards 
there came from behind a kind of screen or shrine, uncouth and terrible sounds, such as he had never 
heard before. These, he was told, emanated from a spirit called Ukuk. He afterwards brought to 
me the instruments with which the fetich-man makes this noise. It is a )dnd of whistle made of 
hollowed mangrore wood, about two inches in length, and covered at one end with a scrap of bat's 
wing. For a period of fire days after initiatiou the noTice wears an apron of dry palm-leares, 
which I haye frequently seen. 

<* The initiation of the girls is performed by elderly females, who call themaelyes Ngembi. They 
go into the forest, clear a space, sweep the ground carefully, come biusk to the town and build a 
sacred hut, which no male may enter. They return to the clearing ia the forest, taking with them 
the Iffonji, or noTice. It is necessary that she should haye never been to that place before, and that 
she ^t during the whole of the ceremony, which lasts three days. All this time a fire is kept 
burning in the wood. From morning to night, and from night to morning, a Kgembi sits beside it 
and feeds it, singing with a cracked yoice» ' The firt will never die out!' The third night is passed 
in the sacred hut ; the Jgonji is rubbed with bUck, red, and white paints, and as the men beat 
drums outside, she cries ^Okanda, yot yo! yol' which reminds one of the Evoke! of the ancient 
Bacchantes. The ceremonies which are performed in the hut and in the wood are kept secret from 
the men, and I can say but little of them. Mongilomba had evidently been playing the spy, but was 
very reserved on the subject Should it be kuown, he said, that he had told me what he had, the 
women would drag him Into a fetich-house and would flog him perhaps till he was dead. It is pretty 
certain, however, that these rites, like those of the Bona Dea, are essentially of a Phallic nature ; 
for Mongilomba once confessed that, having peeped through the chinks of the hut, he saw a 
ceremony like that which is described in Petronius Arbiter. . , , , . 

*< During the novitiate which prec^es initiation, the girls are taught religious dances ; the men 
are instructed in the science of fetich. It is then that they are told that there are certain kinds of 
food which are forbidden to their clan. One clan may not eat crocodile, nor another hippopotamus, 
nor a third buffalo. These are relics of the old animal worship. The spirit Ukuk (or Mwetyi, as 
he is caUed in the Skekani country) is supposed to lire in the bqirels of the earth, and to come to 
the upper world when there is any business to perform." — Savage Africa^ pp. 245-8. 

" On reaching puberty, young women, on a given occasion, are placed in the sort of gallery 
already described as in every house, and are there surrounded completely with mats, so that neither 
the sun nor any fire can be seen. In this cage they remain for several days. Water is given to 

them, but no food A girl is disgraced for life if it is known that she has 

seen fire or the sun during this initiatory ordeaL"— /Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, p. 94, by 
Gilbert Malcolm Sproat. 


state ; and in view of the severe pmiishments inflicted when a girl of marriage- 
able age was abducted, we may conclude that any attempt to violate a child 
would have been regarded as a crime worthy of death. 

The rite of circumcision is practised only by a part of the inhabitants of 
Australia, probably only in the central, western, and northern areas ; but that 
the custom may have been known and observed even as far south as the Biver 
Murray, where it forms the boundary of Victoria, is possible. This custom and 
others of a like character are common amongst the tribes living within the 
drainage area of the great river whose sources are as &r north as 24'' S. 


When a boy in Victoria attained the age of fourteen or fifteen years he had 
to submit himself to his elders, and to ti^e part in a ceremony preparatory to 
his being admitted to the privileges of manhood. His coming of age was not 
a pleasant event in his life. During the celebration of the rites the youth 
sufiered severely, and he had sympathy from none. Tib-but is the name applied 
in Victoria to the extraordinary practices of the natives when a youth was to be 
made a man. 

A married man of influence and power in the tribe performs the rites. When 
the youth has been led to a suitable place, safe from intrusion, his hair — all but 
a narrow strip about a quarter of an inch in breadth, extending from the nape of 
the neck to the forehead — ^is cut off with sharp chips of quartzite, and the head 
made quite smooth by such kind of shaving as can be done by sharp chips. 
The head is then daubed with clay, and the narrow ridge of hair rising rebel- 
liously in the middle gives the novice an appearance that is far from pleasing. 
Indeed, when this part of the ceremony is finished, his aspect is hideous. To 
complete the picture, he is immediately invested with a garment formed of strips 
of opossum skins, strings of opossum fur, and the like, which serves to cover 
his middle only, and his body is daubed with clay, mud, charcoal-powder, and 
filth of every kind. Though this ceremony is generally i)erformed in the 
winter season, when the weather is very cold, the youth is not permitted to cover 
himself with a rug. He carries a basket under his arm, containing moist clay, 
charcoal-powder, and filth. In this state he wanders through the encampment 
day and night, calling out in a loud voice, " TiMo-bchbo-but/^^ He gathers 
filth as he goes, and places it in the basket. No one speaks to him — ^no one 
molests him ; all seem to fear him. When he sees any one come out of a miam 
he casts filth at him ; but he may not intrude himself into any miam, nor dare 
he cast filth at a woman who goes to fetch water. He, however, gives annoy- 
ance, and throws filth when he can, and all the women and children — and even 
the men — are afraid of him when he crosses their path. The women and chil- 
dren scream when they see him, and rush to their miams for shelter. The 
warning voice must, however, be constantly heard, or the rite would be incom- 
plete and the proprieties would be violated. 

After the lapse of some days — the length of the period of probation depend- 
ing on circumstances understood only by the elders — ^and when his hair has 
begun to show through the covering of clay, or at least to have grown a little, 


he is given oyer to the women, who wash him, paint his face with black lines 
(the pigment being powdered charcoal mingled with wee-rup), and dance before 
him. He is now a man, and can go to any neighbouring tribe and steal a yonng 
girl, and make her his wife. 

The rites above described were witnessed by the late Mr. Thomas, and were 
practised, I believe, only by the Coast tribes. In other parts of the colony the 
ceremony on initiation was different. 

A youth on arriving at manhood was conducted by three of the leaders of 
the tribe into the recesses of the woods, where he remained two days and one 
night. Being ftimished with a suitable piece of wood, he knocked out two of 
the teeth of his upper front jaw, and on returning to the camp he gave the teeth 
to his mother. The youth again retired to the forest, and remained absent two 
nights and one day ; and his mother during his absence selected a young gum- 
tree, and inserted in the bark of it in the fork of two of the topmost branches 
the teeth which had been knocked out. This tree ever afterwards was in some 
sense held sacred. It was made known only to certain persons of the tribe, and 
the youth himself was never permitted to learn where his teeth had been placed. 
If the youth died, the foot of the tree was stripped of its bark, and it was killed 
by making a fire about it, so that it might remain stricken and sere, as a 
monument of the deceased.* 


The ceremonies called Mur-rum Tur-uk-ur-uk are performed when a girl 
attains the age of twelve or thirteen years. At a distance of one hundred yards 
from the main encampment two large fires are made of bark only, not a piece of 
stick nor a twig being used for the purpose of even kindling them. Each fire 
is made and maintained by an old woman, who sits by it in silence. The girl is 
brought out of the miam by her female friends, and is rubbed all over with 
charcoal-powder (kun-nun-der), and spotted also with white clay ; the effect of 
which is neither ludicrous nor solemn, but rather calculated to excite surprise, 
even amongst those who are accustomed to see the Aborigines in their several 
disguises. As soon as the painting is finished, she is made to stand on a log, 
and a small branch, stripped of every leaf and bud, is placed in her right hand, 
having on the tip of each bare twig a very small piece of some fieirinaceous food. 
Young men, perhaps to the number of twenty, slowly approach her one by one; 
each throws a small bare stick at her, and bites off the food from the tip of one 
of the twigs, and spits it into the fire, and, returning from the fire, stamps, 
leaps, and raves, as in a corrobboree. As soon as each of the young men has 
performed this ceremony, the old women who have been attending to the fires 
approach the girl, and gather carefrilly every twig and stick that has been 
thrown at her, and, making a hole, bury them deeply in the ground. They are 
carefril not to leave a single stick : each must be gathered and buried. This is 
done to prevent the sorcerers from taking away the girl's kidney-fat (marm- 
bu-la). When the twigs and sticks have become rotten, the girl is safe from 
the attacks of sorcerers and evil spirits. When the twigs are buried, and the 

* Wm. Blandowski, Esq. TroMocHoiu qf the PhihwphUsd Society of Vtctoria^ rol. z., p. 73. 


hole filled^ the bongh held by the girl is solemnly demanded of her by the two 
old women, who bom it in the fires, which are then raked together and made 
one. The mother, or nearest female relative, at this stage removes the girl from 
her position on the log, and leads her to her father's miam. At night a corrob- 
boree is held ; the father of the girl leads the dance, and the yonng men who 
took part in the day's ceremony form the first corrobboree. In the second all 
the yonng men join. At intervals a yonng woman, having on the emu apron 
(tilbumin), dances alone. The yonng men who threw the twigs and bit off the 
food are understood to have covenanted with her not to assault her, and, farther, 
to protect her until she shall be given away lawfully to her betrothed : but the 
agreement extends no further ; she may entertain any of them of her own free 
will as a lover. 


One of my correspondents gives this account of the ceremonies practised on 
the "making of young men" : — Narra-mang — the name given to a custom of 
the blacks of the Murrumbidgee, Murray, Ovens, and Goulbum tribes— <;onsists 
essentially in the knocking out of two of the incisor teeth of the upper-jaw. It 
may perhaps be regarded as a religious ceremony,, in the performance of which 
many mystic rites are observed — writes that no white man is permitted to witness 
unless he be one who has the confidence and regard of the old men. The opera- 
tion is performed at the age of puberty, and the teeth of the males only are 
knocked out. When a lad has to be initiated, he is removed to some remote 
and secluded spot, and when it is night, the coradjes (priests and doctors), 
painted and decorated with feathers, &c., begin their operations. A ring is 
marked out, and in this the youths are placed, one at a time; incantations 
are uttered by the priests ; and, finally, one of them, holding in one hand 
a piece of wood shaped like a punch, and in the other a tomahawk, approaches 
the youth and knocks out two teeth. When this has been done, the young 
man is placed in a gunyah, formed of boughs, so closely interwoven as to be 
nearly impervious to light, and then the wild songs of the women are heard, who 
approach and walk round the gunyah, each holding in her hand a lighted brand. 

For the space of one moon the youths are prohibited from seeing any one 
except the coradjes. If they are seen by a female, they will surely die. When 
this ordeal is passed, and not before, they are permitted to eat of the flesh of the 
My-ioa (black swan), and that of the JohrgaJi (musk-duck), and they may then 
also eat of the emu. 

Some of the chants are of this kind : — 

Tis now that yon are sick, 

Thtrr^an-jee-gar jaheru-mah Johans Joh-gah^hc. Bnt Boon wlU grow yonr beaid. 

And on the magic mnsk-dack 
With the men yon shall feed. 

Jebbtale, etc. 

Mr. A. W. Howitt, of Baimsdale, in Gippsland, has sent me the following 
account of the ceremony known as Jerry ale: — ^ 

" A youth of twelve or fifteen, or a man of any age, may be made * Jerry aU^ 
that is, as expressed by the blacks themselves in their broken English, ^ made a 


young man.' The whole ceremony appears to be typical of the severance of 
the boy from his mother's influence and control, and also possibly of his future 
married state. There seems to be no fixed time upon which the ceremony of 
Jerryale takes place, but it is fixed upon by the elders of the tribe or of several 
tribes in concert ; for instance, the Jerryale at which my informant was made 
* young man ' was attended by the blacks from Lake Tfyers to the Tarra in 
South Gippsland. The proceedings, as told me, are as follows : — ^All the youths, 
candidates for Jerryale^ sit down on the ground at a distance of thirty to forty 
yards from the camp. The women, that is the married women, sit down at the 
camp and beat rugs folded up. The youths are called Jerryale^ and I shall 
speak of them by that term. ' The Jerryale sit down in a row, and immediately 
behind each Jerryale sits a young girl called Grormn. The Grrormms are 
appointed by the elders, and, I am informed, are only ^ mate-partner to help 
the Jerryale^ and not in any way as a wife — ^as it is also expressed, * something 
like it sister or cousin ;' the Jerryale sits cross-legged with his arms folded on 
his breast, and the Grormn sits behind him, close to him, in a like attitude. 
When there are more Jerryale than Grammj one of the latter sits half-way 
between two of the former. Thus — J for Jerryale^ G for Grofmrn : — 

(G) (G) (G) (G) 

(J) (J) (J) (J) (J) 

At this time the men are arranged at a little distance in a row fronting the 
Jerryale. At a signal, they run forward and halt just in front of them. They 
beat up the soil or sand in front of the Jerryale with sticks, shouting ^Ai-ee-' 
ee-ee^;^ at each cry they strike the ground so as to make soil fly up towards 
the Jerryale. These say nothing, but slowly incline the head — ^the arms being 
folded first on the left breast, then on the right. The Ororvun exactly imitate 
the gestures of the Jerryale. The men have a stalk of grass thrust through the 
perforation in the cartilage of the nose instead of the bone goombert. They are 
also rubbed round the eyes with charcoal-dust. This ceremony is performed 
every evening, from about four o'clock to ten o'clock, for two weeks ; and it is 
moreover done at different places, thus progressing through the tribes fi^m 
one limit of the district to the other. In addition to the cry of ^Ai-ee-eey the 
words ^ Bttnee-Jntnee-bunee^ are also used, but no explanation can be given of 
these terms. During the fortnight that this ceremony continues, the mothers 
of the youths go down to the young men's camps (called Brenhit)^ which are 
apart from the main camp, and beat upon folded 'possum rugs there — ^their sons 
the meanwhile sitting silent in front of them in the manner above described. 
The mothers go from camp to camp in this way. The ceremonies now change ; 
the Jerryale stand in a row at the camp, naked ; behind them all the gins 
stand naked, except an apron of emu feathers round their waists, and cords 
made of stringybark round their heads ; they hold upright in front of them 
their yam-sticks with boughs tied on the end. The men come up with bundles 
of wood-splinters a foot long in each hand, singing ^oo-ocHXhOO-yay-yay-yay-yay^ 
&c., Ac. When they come near, they, while chanting ^ o(hyay^ throw tiie 
splinters one by one to the gins, who gather them up, and beat tiie bundles on 


each other in time, singing also ^oo-oo-oo-yay-yay-yay^ Then the men come 
forward. Each Jerryale has a blackfellow to take charge of him, a kind of 
sponsor, called BulterorTvreny. Two of the Bullera-wreny take hold of the 
Jerryaley one by one, by the ankles, and launch him up in the air as high as 
they can, calling ont at the same time " nurt.'^ * The Jerryale holds his arms, 
palms forward, straight up above his head. They then lie down upon a couch 
of green boughs, side by side, each one attended by his sponsor. These 
Bullerormreng watch them, and if they are compelled from any cause to leave 
the place, attend them, coveriog the heads of the Jerryale with a rug, and 
surrounding him so that his mother may not catch a glimpse of him. The 
BuHeror-nyreng watch all night by the Jerryale^ who has to lie extended on these 
boughs for two, three, or four days. All this time the Bullera^wreng and the 
mothers are chanting yay^ay-yay^oo-oo-oo^ Ac, &c. t On concluding this, the 
old gins sing c^eet-gunrdjeet-^nndjeet-gun-eering'-eering^eringy beating the 
ground with bundles of small saplings. Bjeet-gun is the superb warbler ; the 
eering the emu wren; the former is called the * gins' sister,* the latter the 
^ blackfellows' brother.' The Bulleror-rvreng paint the fiw^s of the Jerryale 
with pipeclay or murloOy so as to resemble the duck nurtj i,e.y with a white 
circle round each eye, and a white band across the cheek-bones or eyebrows. 
The Jerryale stand together ; the Bulleror-wreng a little way in front of them. 
Then the latter cry out nurra^ or ready, shaking boughs and vibrating their legs. 
The Jerryale run off to them, who catch them by the arms, then let them x)asS; 
and they run off into the bush ; as my informant said, ^ my mother see me no 
more.' After a month spent in the forest, the Jerryale one day kill two kangaroos 
and leave some of the meat on the top of a log. They then go down to the 
camp of the tribe a little before noon. The Gronmn is on the look-out for her 
Jerryale^ and holds out to him a fish, tochrooky which he takes in his hand^ 
throws, down, and runs off about a hundred yards. His mother is standing 
near. The Bullera-wreng picks up the fish and follows the Jerryaley who eats 
it. In the afternoon, all the Jerryale go to where the kangaroo meat was left, 
the men of the tribe forming a circle round. These, when they see the kangaroo 
meat on the log, cry out WarO-a-aWy this being the cry with which they drive 
that game in hunting. The Jerryale go up with their 'possum cloaks over 
their heads, and eat the kangaroo flesh ; all &e men look on, and, after a little, 
join in the feast. This is about two or three o'clock in the afternoon, and ends 
the ceremony of Jerryale^ 

Mr. John Green, of Coranderrk, Upper Yarra, says respecting the initiation 
of boys and girls : — 

"1st. When a boy was about thirteen years old, he was taken away by the 
old men of the tribe a considerable distance from the camp, where they made a 
mi-mi, and remained for about one month, during which time the boy was 
instructed in all the legends of the tribe. At the end of that time several of 
the men took hold of the boy, and held him until two others knocked ont one of 
his front teeth ; this was done by first loosing the flesh from round the tooth 

* Nwt is the name of a kind of dndc f This resemblet the chant for the dead. 


with a piece of sharp bone, then one knocked it ont with a piece of wood, nsed 
as a punch. He had now to cover his nakedness with pieces of opossum 
skins ; he then returned to the general camp, and was known as a Wang^oonu 
2nd. When about eighteen, he was again taken to some distance from the 
camp by the old men ; this time he was painted as a warrior ; about sunrise one 
of the old men struck him, and told him to take off the covering of skin, that he 
was now a Geebowak. He had now no longer to hide his nakedness, and might 
take a wife at any time. He had now to go and find something to take to the 
general camp for them to eat, and on his approach to the camp all who were 
there ran and hid themselves, because they were ashamed to look upon him 
naked ; he then found them all, and gave them something to eat, and then they 
were no more ashamed.*' 

The initiation of girls into womanhood was as follows : — ^^ When a girl came 
to puberty, she was taken away some distance from the general mi-mi by some 
of the old women. They then tied cords round several parts of her body, very 
tight. These cords were left there for several days, which made the whole of 
the body to swell very much, and caused great pain. She was not to remove 
them until she was clean. When clean, she got the cords off, and got a covering 
to her nakedness of emu feathers, and then returned to the general mi-mi, and 
was now a Ngarrindarakook — ^that is, marriageable, and might be married at 
any time when her friends thought fit.'* 

Mr. Green mentions also that at certain periods a woman has to leave the 
general camp, and must not walk anywhere that a man walks, nor cross any 
water, nor touch any timber, or anything that a man has to touch, and before 
returning to the camp must wash her whole body in water. 

The Bev. Mr.' Buhner, of Lake l^ers, in Gippsland, says that a young man 
is not received amongst the men of the tribe or admitted to the privileges of 
manhood until certain forms are observed. The forms are different in different 
tribes. Some of the Murray tribes have a custom of knocking out the front 
tooth— others again pluck the hair or down from the young man's chin. Pain 
is inflicted in order that the valour and constancy of the youth may be mani- 
fested. Other things are done which cannot be written down. The Gippsland 
blacks usually preserve silence on this subject, evidently thinking that the less 
said to a white man as regards this custom the better. 

Amongst the Narrinyeri, the ceremonies, according to the observations of 
the Kev. Mr. Taplin, are as follows : — 

^^When the beard of a youth has grown a sufficient length, he is made 
Narumhe^ Kainganij or young man. In order that this ceremony may be pro- 
perly performed, and the youth admitted as an equal among the men of the 
Narrinyeri, it is necessary that members of several different tribes should be 
present on the occasion. A single tribe cannot make its own youths Narumbe 
without the assistance of other tribes. This prevents any tribe from increasing 
its number of men by admitting those who have not yet arrived at the proper 
age, and thus prevents them from making a claim for a greater number of 
women than their proper share — an important consideration where every tribe 
has to obtain wives from those which are adjacent — ^as they never intermarry in 



their own tribe, all the members of which are regarded as of the same family. 
GreneraUy, two youths are made Kainganis at the same time, so that they may 
afterwards, daring the time that they are Narwrnbcy assist each other. They are 
seized at night suddenly by the men, and carried off by force to a spot at some 
little distance from the wurley, the women all the time resisting or pretending 
to resist the seizure by pulling at the captives, and throwing fire-brands at their 
captors. But they are soon driven off to their wurley, and compelled to stop 
there, while the men proceed to strip the two youths. Their matted hair is 
combed or rather torn out with the point of a spear, and their moustaches and a 
great part of their beards plucked up by the roots. They are then besmeared 
from the crown of their heads to their feet with a mixture of oil and red-ochre. 
For three days and three nights the newly-made Kainganis must neither eat 
nor sleep, a strict watch being kept over them to prevent either. They are 
allowed to drink water, but only by sucking it up through a reed ; the luxury 
of a drinking vessel is denied to them for several months. And when, after the 
three days, the refreshment of sleep is permitted, they are not allowed a pillow — 
a couple of sticks stuck in the ground cross-wise are all that they must rest their 
heads on. For six months they are obliged to walk naked, or with merely the 
slightest covering round their loins. The condition of Narumbe lasts until their 
beards have been pulled out three times, and each time have grown again to 
about the length of two inches, and during all that period they are forbidden to 
eat any food which belongs to women, and also from partaking of twenty different 
kinds of game. If they eat any of these forbidden things, it is thought they will 

grow ugly Everything which they possess or obtain becomes 

Narumbe^ or sacred from the touch of women They are not 

allowed to take a wife until the time during which they are Nwrumbe has 
expired ; but they are allowed the abominable privilege of promiscuous inter- 
course with the younger portion of the other sex. Any violation of these 
customs is punished by the old men with death.'' 

Mr. Charles Wilhelmi, in his account of the manners and customs of the 
natives in the Port Lincoln district, refers at some length to the secret rites, 
known to the grown-up men only, into the knowledge of which the young lads 
are initiated by degrees. It appears that in that part of Australia the natives 
recognise three steps — each constituting an epoch in the life of a black. During 
the interval between one stage and another the youth is called by the name of 
the last step taken by him. At the age of fourteen or fifteen years the youths 
enter the first stage. Little is known of the ceremonies attendant on this. 
They are performed in private, and women and children are not allowed to 
witness them. The eyes of the lads are closed, certain strange words are pro- 
nounced, and some native music is heard, and for a time the youths are let go. 
Two or three months afterwards the novices are required to paint their faces 
black, and they are not allowed to speak but in whispers — ^and much whispering 
would bring on them the rebuke of their elders. The discipline appears to 
be sternly maintained. A few years afterwards the youths advance to the 
next degree — when they are called Pardnapas — and undergo the rite of circum- 


The last and most important ceremony takes place at the age of eighteen or 
twenty years, after which the young men are called Wilyalkinyes. For the 
proper performance of this, Indanyanas — sponsors — are appointed, whose duty 
it is to see that all the rites are observed. The youth is seized by some of the 
men and forcibly drawn to the sponsor selected for him, and he is made to sit on 
the lap of this person. The chosen sponsor objects and cries out loudly, and his 
words, being translated, are " nolo episcopari." The men, however, collect around 
him, and urge him to accept the office of Indanyana, an honor which he pretends 
is far too great for him. He accepts it with reluctance apparently, as is usual 
in all such cases. After the sponsors are selected, the eyes of the Wilyalkinyes 
are closed, and the women, with much trouble, are brought out of their miams. 
These raise shouts, and appear to lament, and to be in deep sorrow ; but their 
tears are not genuine, and the sorrow is feigned. Meanwhile the lads have 
been taken by their sponsors to a spot at some little distance from the encamp- 
ment. The sponsors range themselves in a circle, each having a novice- in front 
of him, on whose eyes he has placed his hands, keeping the lad from seeing as 
well as he can. The eyes are kept closed in this manner for an hour or more, 
the sponsors uttering from time to time a long-protracted melancholy mono- 
tonous note, sounding somewhat like Je — e — ch. The lads are then taken to a 
place stUl further from the encampment, where they are laid flat on the ground 
and covered with rugs. After the lapse of an hour, two men bring green boughs 
of trees ; and the lads, having been raised up, are made to stand together ; and 
the whole body of those present form themselves into a group, in a semicircular 
form, the lads being in the centre. The bearers of the green boughs now step 
forward, place themselves in front of the semicircle, vehemently stamp their 
right feet, and with various gestures indicating anger and wrath throw the 
boughs over the heads of the young men, while, at the same time, the company 
forming the semicircle make a clatter by striking their various war imple- 
ments together, each uttering short st^ng loud pounds, the last of which is pro- 
longed as each bough fells to the ground. The sound is like Je-je-je-jeh. The 
boughs are then carefully spread out, and the lads are made to lie on them, 
being again covered with rugs. Some of the men then prepare pieces of 
quartzite for scarring the bodies, and also occupy themselves in selecting names 
for the yonthB, which ever afterwards during life they will have to bear. 
Selecting the names is a difficult task, since, whilst they must correspond 
with their taste and notions of euphony, they must be quite new, and such as 
have never been borne by any other native^ — ^alive or dead. These names 
generally are derived from the roots of verb^, to which they attach as end- 
syllables — oMay iltZf or utta — ^according to the last syllable of the word itself. 
Whether these changes affect the meaning of the word, Mr. Wilhelmi says 
he does not know, as they are mad@ use of i|i connection with proper names 

Everything being properly prepi^red, several of the men open a vein in the 
lower arm, and the lads, being lifted up, are made to swallow the first drops of 
the blood flowing therefrom. They are then made to kneel down, and to place 
their hands on the ground so as to bring the back into a horizontal position. 


The back of each is then covered with a thick coating of blood, which is allowed 
to congeal. One man then marks on the back with his thumb the spots where 
the incisions are to be made. One is made in the middle of the neck, and 
others— <listant from one another about one-third of an inch — ^in rows running 
from each shoulder down to the hip. These incisions — about an inch in length, 
and in course of time forming a swelling — are called Mankay and are always 
considered with great respect, never being spoken of in the presence of women 
or children. The other incisions, which at an early age are made on the breast 
and the arms, are merely for ornament, and have no sacred meaning. The more 
or less decided character of these swellings affords a certain indication of the 
probable age of a native. During manhood they are strong and well defined, 
but with the advance of age they are less distinctly marked ; and at a great 
age they appear as scars only. 

Although each incision made with the chip of quartzite has to be repeated 
several times, in order that the cut may be deep enough, and the flesh drawn 
asunder, the novices, notwithstanding the great pain inflicted, do not utter a 
groan or move a muscle. Mr. Wilhelmi states, however, that Mr. Schurmann 
has seen some of their friends so moved by compassion for their sufferings 
as to shed tears, and to attempt — of course unsuccessfully — ^to put a stop to the 

During the operation as many men as can approach press roimd the lads, 
and repeat rapidly in a subdued tone the following formula : — 

Kannaka kanya, marra marra, 
Kamdo kanya, marra marra, 
Filberri kanya, marra marra. 

They repeat these words — ^as far as known, void of sense or meaning of any 
kind, and supposed to have been uttered on like occasions by their forefathers — 
with the object of deadening the pain and preventing any dangerous effects of 
this dreadful laceration. When the operation is concluded, the young men are 
raised up, and they are allowed to open their eyes; and the first objects they 
perceive are two men, who, stamping their feet and biting their beards, run 
towards them, hurling the Witama* with great vehemence, with the intention 
apparently of throwing it at their heads; but finally, when sufficiently near, they 
cease to whirl it, and satisfy themselves with putting the cord of the instrument 
round the necks of the lads one after the other. 

When the lads have gone through the several degrees described by Mr. 
Wilhelmi, they are permitted to wear the ornaments belonging to men. To 
each is presented a belt made of human hair ; and a tight bandage round each 
of their upper arms, a cord of opossum hair around the neck, the ends dropping 
down on the back and listened to the belt, and a bunch of green leaves above 

* The Witama is a piece of wood eighteen inches in length, f oar inches in hreadth, and a 
quarter of an inch in thickness. It is tied to a long string, and the natiye swings it about his head 
in snch a manner as to produce a low rumbling sound at interrals — ceasing and returning with each 
effort of the performer. The Witama is caref oUj hidden from the women and children, and when 
thej hear the sound of it. they know that the men are engaged in some secret ceremonies, and that 
they are to keep away from them.»C Wilkelmi. 


the part virilis complete the costume. For farther adormDent each blackens 
his face^ arms, and breast. When the ceremonies are conclnded, all the men 
press around the Wilyalkinyes and give them advice as to their future conduct, 
the drift of which, as far as Mr. Schurmann has been able to make out, is that 
they shall avoid quarrels, not indulge in loud talk, and keep away from the 
women. The two last of these injunctions are strictly observed; and to this end 
they separate themselves day and night from the other blacks, and speak in a 
subdued tone, until after the expiration of four or five months, when they are 
relieved from their obligation. The final acts which precede admission to the 
enjoyments and privileges of grown-up men are the tearing off from their necks 
of the opossum cord, and the sprinkling of their bodies with blood. 

The above description — ^given nearly in Mr. Wilhelmi's own words — ^is 
interesting in a high degree; and no one can read it without being struck 
with the resemblance to certain observances amongst our own people and the 
people of the south of Europe. The covering up of the bodies of the novices 
with a mg is in itself a striking feature. 

Collins states that between the ages of eight and sixteen the males and 
females had to undergo the operation which they term Gnor-noong — ^namely, 
that of having the septum of the nose bored, to receive a bone or reed, which 
among them is deemed a very great ornament, though the articulation is 
frequently rendered very imperfect by it. Between the same years, also, the 
males received the qualifications which are given to them by losing one front 

Collins had excellent opportunities of observing the ceremonies attendant on 
this operation, and an artist who accompanied him on one occasion made draw- 
ings illustrative of every particular circumstance that occurred* He gives a frill 
description of the scenes, and they are highly interesting. 

On the 25th January 1795, there were several youths, well known in the 
settlement, to be made men; and a crowd of natives assembled at the head of 
Farm Cove. The men from Cam-mer-ray, who were to perform the ceremony, 
were painted white in various patterns, and carried their weapons with them. 
After some nights passed in dancing, the real business of the meeting com- 
menced. A space had been prepared by clearing it of grass, stumps, &c. ; it 
was an oval figure; the dimensions of it twenty-seven feet by eighteen, and was 
named Yoo-lahng. 

The ceremony began by the advance of the armed party from their end of 
the Yoo-lahng with a song, or rather a shout, peculiar to the occasion, clattering 
their spears and shields, and raising a dust with their feet that nearly obscured 
the objects around them. 

On reaching the children, one of the party stepped from the crowd, and^ 
seizing his victim, returned with him to his party, who received him with a 
shout louder than usual, placing him in the midst, where he seemed defended 
by a grove of spears from any attempts that his friends might make to rescue 
him. In this manner the whole were taken out to the number of fifteen; these 
were seated at the upper end of the YooAahng^ each holding down the head, 
his hands clasped and his legs crossed under him. In this position, awkward 


and painfol as it must have been, it was said they were to remain all night; 
and until the ceremony was concluded they were neither to look up nor take 
any refreshment whatsoever. 

The Carrakdis ( Coradjes) now began some of their mystical rites. One of 
them suddenly fell upon the ground, and throwing himself into a variety of 
attitudes, accompanied with every gesticulation that could be extorted by pain, 
appeared to be at length delivered of. a bone, which was to be used in the 
ensuing ceremony. He was during this apparently painful process encircled 
by a crowd of natives, who danced around him, singing vociferously, while one 
or more beat him on the back until the bone was produced. Another went 
through the same process. These mummeries were to show the boys that they 
would su£fer little pain, as the more the CarraJidis endured the less would be felt 
by them. The ceremonies were resumed at daylight on the following morning. 

The pictures in CoUins's work represent- 

1st. The young men, fifteen in number, seated at the heieid of the Yo(hlahng^ 
with the operators running upon their hands and feet and imitating the dogs 
of the country. In this manner power over the dog was given to the youth. 

2nd. The young men seated as before. A stout, robust native carries on his 
shoulders ^» paMa-go-rangy or kangaroo made of grass, and another bears a load 
of brushwood. The other figures seated about are singing, and beating time to 
the steps of the two loaded men, who appear scarcely able to move under the 
burdens they carry. Halting every now and then, and limping, the men finally 
deposit the loads at the feet of the young men, and the two retire from the 
Yo(hlahng, The man carrying the brushwood had thrust one or two flowering 
shrubs through the septum of the nose, and presented an extraordinary appearance. 
By this offering of the dead kangaroo was meant the power that was now given 
the youths of killing that animal ; the brushwood perhaps represented its haunt. 

3rd. The youths still sitting in the Yoo-lakngj the actors make for themselves 
tails of grass, and imitate the motions of a herd of kangaroos, one man beating 
time with a club on a shield. This was emblematical of one of their future 
exercises, the hunting of the kangaroo. 

4th. The men, as a herd of kangaroos, pass by the boys, and each one as he 
passes divests himself of his long grass tail, catches up a boy, and carries him 
off on his shoulders. 

5th. The boys are placed in a cluster, standing with their heads inclined on 
their breasts, and their hands clasped together, and after an interval passed in 
the performance of more than ordinarily mysterious rites, the boys stand in a 
group, and fronting them are two men, one seated on the stump of a tree bearing 
another man on his shoulders, both with their arms extended. Behind these 
are a number of bodies lying with their faces toward the ground, as close to each 
other as they can lie, and at the foot of another stump of a tree are two other 
figures in the same position as the two first described. The boys and their 
attendants approach the first of these figures, the latter moving from side to 
side, lolling out their tongues and staring widely and horribly with their eyes. 
The boys are now led over the bodies lying on the ground ; these immediately 
begin to move, writhing as if in agony, and uttering a moumfiil, dismal sound, 


like very distant thunder. A particular name, Boo-^oo^moo-roong^ was given to 
this scene ; but of its import very little could be learned. To the enquiries made 
respecting it no answer could be obtained but that it was very good — ^that the 
boys would now become brave men — that they would see well and fight well. 

6th. The boys seated by each other, and opposite to them, drawn up in a half- 
circle, the other party, now armed with the spear and shield. In the centre is 
the principal performer, holding his shield in one hand and a club in the other, 
with which he gives them the time for their exercise. Striking the shield with 
the dub, at every third stroke the whole party poise and present their spears at 
him, pointing them inwards and touching the centre of his shield. 

7th. Striking out the tooth. The first subject was a boy about ten years of 
age. He was seated on the shoulders of another native who sat on the grass. 
The bone was now produced, which it was pretended had been taken firom the 
stomach of the native the preceding evening. This, made very sharp and fine at 
one end, was used for lancing the gum. A throwing-stick was now to be cut 
eight or ten inches from the end, and to effect this much ceremony was used. 
The stick was laid upon a tree, and three attempts to hit it were made before it 
was struck ; three feints were constantly made before each stroke. When the 
gum was properly prepared, the operation began : the smallest end of the stick 
was applied as high upon the tooth as the gum would admit of, while the 
operator stood ready with a large stone, apparently to drive the tooth down the 
throat of his patient. Here tiieir attention to the number three was again 
manifest ; no stroke was actually made until the operator had thrice attempted 
to hit the throwing-stick. They were full ten minutes about this first opera- 
tion, the tooth being very firmly fixed. It was at last forced out, and the sufferer 
was taken to a little distance, where the gum was closed by his friends, who now 
equipped him in the style that he was to appear in for some days. 

A girdle was tied round his waist, in which was stuck a wooden sword ; a 
ligature was put round his head, in which were stuck slips of the grass-gum- 
tree, which, being white, had a curious and not unpleasing effect. The left hand 
was to be placed over the mouth, which was to be kept shut ; he was on no 
account to speak, and for that day he was not to eat. The rest were treated in the 
same manner. During the whole of the operation the assistants made the most 
hideous noise in the ears of the patients, crying, ^^ E^wahre-^vahf gonga^OngaP^ 

The blood that issued from the lacerated gum was not wiped away, but 
suffered to run down the breast and fall upon the head of the man on whose 
shoulders the patient sat, and whose name was added to his. This blood 
remained dried upon the heads of the men and breasts of the boys for days. 
The boys were also termed Ke-bar-^'ay a name which has reference in its con- 
struction to the singular instrument used on the occasion ; Ke-bah^ in their lan- 
guage, signifying a rock or stone. 

8th. The boys, in the dress described, seated on a log. On a signal being 
given, they all started up and rushed into the settlement, driving before them 
men, women, and children, who were glad to get out of their way. They were 
now received into the class of men.* 

* An Account of the EngUah CoUmy in New South Wales, bj LUut.-Gol. Collins^ 1804, pp. d65-374. 


Mr. Hodgkinson, in his work on ^^ Australia^Jrom Port Macquarie to Moreton 
Baifj^ relates how '^yonng men" are made at the Macleay and Nambncca HiTers. 
He says : — 

'^ As the boys of a tribe approach the age of puberty, a grand ceremony, to 
inaugurate them into the privileges of manhood, takes place. This ceremony is 
entirely different at the Macleay and Nambucca Rivers to what it probably is in 
other parts of the colony, for the natives there do not strike out the front tooth, 
as elsewhere. When a tribe has determined on initiating their youths into these 
rites, they send messengers to the surrounding tribes of blacks, to invite them 
to be present on the occasion. These messengers, or ambassadors, appear to be 
distinguished by having their head-bands colored with very pale yellow-ochre, 
instead of the usual deep-red, whilst their hair is drawn up and crowned by the 
high top-knots of grass, resembling nodding plumes, which ornament is, I think, 
peculiar to the blacks north of the Hunter — ^at least I have never seen it &rther 
south, where the hair is usually matted with gum, and decorated with dogs' 
tails and teeth. After all the preliminaries are settled, and the surrounding 
tribes arrived, the blacks repair to the Cawarra ground. This is a circular plot 
about thirty feet in diameter, carefully levelled, weeded, and smoothed down. It 
is, in general, situated on the summit of some round-topped hill, and the sur- 
rounding trees are minutely tattooed and carved to such a considerable altitude 
that one cannot help feeling astonished at the labor bestowed upon this work. 
The women are now dismissed to the distance of two miles from the Cawarra 
ground ; for if one of them should happen to witness or hear any portion of the 
ceremony, she would be inmiediately put to death. The first evening is passed 
in dancing the ordinary corrobboree, during which the invited blacks sit round 
their respective fires as spectators, whilst the boys who are to undergo the cere- 
mony squat down in a body by themselves, and keep up a bright fire for the 
dancers. From the repugnance which the blacks at the Macleay displayed on 
my looking at their performance, and their* angry reftisal to allow me to see the 
main part of the ceremony, I am unable to give a regular account of it, having 
only been able to obtain occasional glimpses. After many preliminary grotesque 
mummeries have been performed, the doctors, or priests of the tribe, take each 
a boy, and hold him for some time with his head downwards near the fire. 
Afterwards, with great solemnity, they are invested with the opossum belt ; and, 
at considerable intervals between each presentation, they are given the nuUa- 
nulla, the boomerang, the spear, &c. Whilst these arms are being conferred 
upon them, the other natives perform a sham fight, and pretend to hunt the 
pademella, spear fish, and imitate various other occupations, in which the 
weapons, now presented to the youth, will be of service. As these ceremonies 
occupied a fortnight or more before they were concluded, many other ridiculous 
scenes were undoubtedly enacted, and during all this time the women did not 
dare to approach the performers. Each man was also provided with a singular 
instrument, formed of a piece of hollowed wood, fastened to a long piece of flax 
string ; by whirling this rapidly round their heads, a loud, shrill noise was pro- 
duced, and the blacks seemed to attach a great degree of mystic importance to 
the sound of this instrument ; for they told me that if a woman heard it she 


wonld die. The conclnsion of this ceremony was a grand dance, of a peculiar 
character, in which the boys join, and which the women are allowed to see. 
This dance is performed with much more solemnity than the ordinary corrobbo- 
rees. The Tarra-Hapinni tribe, which I saw execute this dance near the 
Clybucca Creek, were so elaborately painted with white for the occasion, that 
even their very toes and fingers were carefully and regularly colored with con- 
centric rings, whilst their hair was drawn up in a close knot, and stuck all over 
with the snowy down of the white cockatoo, which gave them the appearance of 
being decorated with white wigs.* In this dance the performers arranged them- 
selves in the form of a semicircle, and grasping the ends of their boomerangs, 
which are also painted with great minuteness and regularity, they swayed their 
bodies rapidly firom right to left, displaying a degree of flexibility in their 
limbs which might have created the envy of many a pantomimic artist. Every 
movenient of their bodies to and fro was accompanied by a loud hiss; whilst a 
number of other natives, similarly painted, beat time with sticks, and kept up 
an incessant and obstreperous song. Every now and then the dancers would 
stop and rush, crowding together, into a circle, raising their weapons with 
outstretched arms, and joining with frantic energy in the song. They would 
then be more composed, and walk backwards and forwards in couples, holding 
each other by the hand, until again roused by an elderly native to resume the 
dance. It was not until midnight that the noise ceased, which, every evening, 
whilst the ceremonies lasted, might be heard at a distance of two or three miles. 
The tribes of natives near Sydney, where the boys are always deprived of their 
front teeth, do not seem to be so averse to the whites witnessing their ceremonies, 
which differ considerably from what I have just described. 

"In their mode of going through the ceremony, the boys being assembled 
together, and the whole tribe mustered for the occasion, a party of men, armed 
and painted, advanced into the Cawarra ground, with loud shouts and clattering 
of their arms, and seized, one by one, the boys who were to undergo the 
operation. The latter were then placed together on the Cawarra ground, where 
they were to pass the night in perfect silence. In the meantime the other 
natives danced and sang ftiriously, whilst the doctors, or ^coradjes,' went 
through a most ridiculous scene, groaning, and contorting themselves in every 
position, until they at length pretended to be delivered of some bones, which 
were subsequently used to cut open the gums of the boys before striking out 
their teeth. Next day the boys were brought into the centre of the Cawarra 
ground, whilst the other blacks performed various ridiculous antics around them, 
in imitation of various animals. Sticking their boomerangs vertically in their 
opossum-skin belts, so as to bear some resemblance to the tail of the native dog, 
they ran on all-fours past the boys, throwing up dust, whilst the latter remained 
motionless, with downcast eyes. They next fiistened to their girdles long pieces 
of twisted grass, to resemble the tail of the kangaroo, and then bounded round 
the boys in imitation of the movement of that animal, whilst others pretended 
to spear them. 

* The natiyes of the Port Lincoln district, when about to engage in the corrobboree, Bometimes 
decorate their heads with wreaths made of white birds' down. 


'^All this time an incessant shouting, singing, and dancing had been kept 
np. After this the boys were placed in a cluster together, with their heads 
lowered and their hands crossed over their breasts, whilst the most ridiculous 
antics were performed by the rest of the natives, who, mounted on each other's 
backs, threw themselves on the ground, whilst the boys were made to walk over 
their prostrate bodies, and executed a multitude of evolutions with their spears 
and shields. The final operation was then performed : the gums being lanced 
with the bones before mentioned, a stick was applied to the tooth, and a large 
stone employed to strike it out. As each boy lost his front tooth, the gum was 
closed up, but the blood was not allowed to be washed or wiped o£f. He was 
then furnished with the belt of manhood, boomerangs, &c., and joined in the 
corrobboree dances, which concluded the ceremony." 

In the Bev. J. G. Wood's Natural History of Man (vol. n.), several 
accounts are given of the ceremonies attendant on becoming men. Mr. Wood 
describes the mode of extracting the front teeth; the practices of coradjes 
when they give power to the young men over the various beasts of chase ; the 
marking of the body by gashes or scars ; the secret of the magic ciystal ; the 
ceremony of depilation ; and the rites as practised by the natives of the Port 
Lincoln district. It is an interesting chapter in his work, and it appears to 
have been written with care. 


When youths have advanced to the second degree, that is when they are 
sixteen or seventeen years of age, they have, Mr. Wilhelmi says, to undergo the 
operation of circumcision. Whether it is ever performed at an earlier age is 
not known, but in all parts where it has been witnessed the boys were nearly 
of the age mentioned. The custom, it is believed, was not followed in the 
most southern parts of Australia, but it is known on the western shores of 
Spencer's Gulf, on the north-west coast, at the Gulf of Carpentaria, at Cooper's 
Creek, and in Central Australia. It is by no means general, and probably 
originated, as suggested by Bennett, with those tribes of the north who have 
intercourse with the Malays. 

It is performed at that period of life when natives have to give proofs of 
courage and endurance before being admitted to a certain rank in the tribe, and 
it may safely be assumed, I think, that it is not connected in any way with 
even a trace of religion. It is most likely of modem introduction, and has 
been seized upon as a test to be applied to the neophyte, because of the pain 
and alarm it occasions. It has the effect, however — as other similar rites 
practised by them certainly have — of limiting the population; and may, as 
Eyre says, be a wise ordination for that purpose in a country that in many 
parts is of a desert and arid character. 

One of my correspondents on the Paroo, who has witnessed the operation, 
states that he was called about an hour before daylight and invited to a camp 
where about twenty blacks were assembled, near a tree at some distance firom 
the main camp. They were dressed in most gorgeous corrobboree array ; they 
were continually singing, and when some were exhausted, others commenced. 


They had kept up the singing during the whole of the night, and all were quite 
hoarse and seemed worn out. At a fire about fifty yards distant were about 
half a dozen other blacks, and with them the subject to be operated on. He 
was held and kept in a standing position away from the fire by a blackfellow, 
and he was evidently tired and cold. He was not allowed to speak, and he had 
a most melancholy expression of countenance. My correspondent was informed 
that the operation had to be performed at the very moment the sun rises. 

So soon as the sun appeared, the boy was seized and carried by two men to 
the fire, where the larger body of men were assembled. He was then blind- 
folded and laid on the grass. Two men held him. About twelve men took 
part in the operation, each being provided with a small piece of sharp-edged 
quartzite. It was soon over. The boy never murmured or even flinched. 
Proper attentions were shown to him. Immediately after the operation several 
of the blacks cried.* 

Mr. Gason mentions five stages of life at each of which the council of old 
men mutilate the youths. The first is Moodlamllpa — ^boring the septum of the 
nose — an operation which is performed when the boys and girls are from five to 
ten years of age ; the second is Chirrifichirrie — ^the extraction of the teeth — 
which is done when the children are between the ages of eight and twelve years ; 
the third is Kurrawellie Wankanim (circumcision), which is performed when 
the hair makes its appearance on the face ; the fourth is Willyaroo (to 
procure a good harvest, supply of snakes and other reptiles), when the young 
man is scarred. He is cut on the neck and shoulders with a sharp-edged stone, 
so that ridges may be formed. And finally, Koolpie. As soon as the hair on 
the face is sufficiently grown to admit of the ends of the beard being tied, the 
ceremony of the Koolpie is solemnized* This is a very dreadful operation, and 
it is not at all clear that the youths willingly submit to the torture. It is 
the punishment probably referred to by Mr. Jessop, " as the most heavy and 
effective within the province of their divorce courts."t It is not reasonable to 
suppose that it is inflicted on all the youths. Probably some are chosen and 
some are left; or it may be that its effects are not so serious as Mr. Jessop 
supposes. There is another ceremony — Mindarie — ^when the hair of the young 
men's heads is dressed. It takes place after the ordeal of TFzY/yar^?^?. All the tribes 
assemble ; dances are held ; disputes are settled ; and there is general rejoicing. 

* ** The rite in South Australia (according to Mr. Teichelmann) is thus performed : — ^At the 
age of puberty the bojs selected are beaten with green boughs, sprinkled with blood drawn fVom 
the arm of a warrior, and are then taken to a place specially appointed. The lad is laid upon the 
ground by the doctor, and entirely coyered with dust ; after a few minutes (when almost stifled) 
he is raised up by the ears — ^wlth loud shouts, which are made to restore him from his supposed 
state of enchantment. A line is then drawn upon the earth ; on one side of which stands an old 
man who represents the Star of Autunm, and on the other side one who is said to represent a fly. 
The Katta, a woman's stick, is then borne round and thrust into the ground by the bearer, who lies 
down himself and all the men fall upon him — ^thus forming a rude altar. Upon this living altar 
the initiated is laid and the rite performed. He then receives the name which he inherits A:om his 
father and mother, and has also a secret name given him, and is introduced to the rude mysteries, 
which are carefully hidden from the women and children — ^none of whom are suffered to be present 
at the ceremony." — Remarks on the probable Origin and Antiquity of the Aboriginal Natives of New 
South Wales, by a Colonial Magistrate, p. 16. 

t Flinders Land and Sturt Land, by W. R, H. Jet98op, M,A., ToL IL, p. S06. 



There is no such thing as marriage^ in the proper sense of the word, amongst 
the Australians. The acts which precede matrimony are certainly not entitled 
to be regarded as rites. Men obtain wives by a convenient system of ex- 
change, by conquest sometimes^ and sometimes a woman is stolen. By what 
mode soever a man procures a bride, it is very seldom an occasion of rejoicing 
for the female. 

The males engross the privilege of disposing of their female relations, and 
it often happens that an old man of sixty or seventy will add to his domestic 
circle a young girl of ten or twelve years of age. If the father be alive, he 
alone can dispose of his daughters ; if he be dead, the eldest son can dispose of 
his sisters ; and if there be no brothers, then the uncle or cousin steps in, and 
exchanges the women for others whc become his wives. In rare cases the old 
men meet together and determine to whom a young woman shall be given. 

A man having a daughter of thirteen or fourteen years of age arranges 
with some elderly person for the disposal of her, and, when all are agreed, she 
is brought out of the miam-mtamy and told that her husband wants her. 
Perhaps she has never seen him, or has seen him but to loathe him. The father 
carries a spear and waddy, or a tomahawk, and, anticipating resistance, is thus 
prepared for it. The poor girl, sobbing and sighing, and muttering words of 
complaint, claims pity from those who will show none. If she resists the 
mandates of her father, he strikes her with his spear; if she rebels and 
screams, the blows are repeated ; and if she attempts to run away, a stroke 
on the head from the waddy or tomahawk quiets her. The mother screams and 
scolds and beats the ground with her kan^nan (fighting-stick) ; the men, women, 
and children in the neighbouring huts come forth to see the sight; the dogs bark 
and whine ; but nothing interrupts the father, who in the performance of his 
duty is strict, and mindful of the necessity of not only enforcing his authority 
but of showing to all that he means to enforce it. Seizing the bride by her 
long hair, the stem father drags her to the home prepared for her by her new 
owner. Further resistance, when she is really placed in the hands of her 
husband, often subjects her to brutal treatment. If she attempts to abscond, 
the bridegroom does not hesitate to strike her savagely on the head with his 
waddy ; and the bridal screams and yells make the night hideous. If the girl 
is energetic, and absolutely refuses the man to whom she is assigned, she 
causes a disturbance that can be quelled only by the authority of the old men. 
The young fellows seize their weapons, and one or two who may have had 


friendly feelings towards the bride begin to throw their ivonguims (boomerangs). 
These striking his frail dwellings rouse the husband^ and he rashes forth^ frilly 
armed^ to do battle with his rivals* A general fight follows, and the old 
husband often is wounded and so deeply marked as to be able, after the lapse 
of many years, to number his wives, living and dead, by his blemishes. During 
the fight, and when her husband is frdly occupied, the bride rushes to her 
mother, and with streaming eyes and heaving breast begs vainly for protection 
and help, which her mother dare not give her. As soon as the old men have 
quelled the disturbance, the father again seizes her hair and drags her to the 
miam of her husband, gives her a few blows with his waddy, and there leaves 
her. If she is still determined to escape, and makes the attempt, the father 
will at last spear her in the leg or foot, to prevent her from running. Beaten, 
frightened, and at last completely conquered, she resigns herself to her hard 
fate, thinks no more of the young men who have in past times shown her 
kindness, and becomes a willing and obedient drudge to her new master.* 

* They are giren in marriage at a very early age (ten or twelre years). The ceremony ia rery 
simple, and with great propriety may be considered an exchange ; for no man can obtain a wife 
unless he can promise to give his sister or other relatiye in exchange. The marriages are always 
between persons of different tribes, and neyer in the same tribe. Should the father be living, he 
may give his daughter away, but generally she is the gift of the brother. The person who wishes 
to obtain a wife neyer applies directly, but to some friend of the one who has the disposal of her ; 
and should the latter also wish for a wife, the bargain is soon made. Thus the girls have no choice 
in the matter, and frequently the parties have never seen each other before. At the time appointed 
for the marriage the relations on both sides come and encamp about a quarter of a mile from each 
other. In the night the men of one tribe arise, and each takes a flre-stick in hand. The bride is 
taken by the hand and conducted in the midst, and appears generally to go very unwillingly ; 
the brother or relation who gives her away walks silently and with downcast looks by himself. As 
soon as they approach the camp of the other tribe, the women and children of the latter must quit 
the hut, which upon this occasion is built larger than their huts usually are. When they arrive at 
the hut, one of the men invites them to take their places ; but before they sit down the bride and 
bridegroom are placed next each other, and also the brother and his intended wife, if it is a double 
marriage. The friends and relations then take their places on each side of the principal parties. 
They sit in this manner, silent, for a considerable time, until most of them fall asleep. At daybreak 
the brides leave the hut and go to their nearest relations, and remain with them until the evening, 
when they are conducted to their husbands by their female friends, and the tribes then separate and 
go to their own districts. When married very young, the girl is frequently away from her husband, 
upon a visit to her relations, for several months at a time ; but should she remain, the man is under 
obligation to provide her with animal food (providing vegetable food is always the duty of the 
females) ; and if she pleases him, he shows his aifection by frequently rubbing her with grease, to 
improve her personal appearance, and with the idea that it will make her grow rapidly and become 
fat.*' — Manners and Customs of the Aborigines of the Encounter Bay Tribe^ South Australiay by 
H. £. A Meyer. 

« Their laws as affecting matrimony are very strict. The woman has no choice in the matter. 
Marriages are effected by one man exchanging his sister or near relation for the sister of another. 
Sometimes a man who has no sister will, in desperation, steal a wife ; but this is invariably a cause 
of bloodshed. Should a woman object to go with her husband, violence would be used. I have 
seen a man drag away a woman by the hair of her head. Often the club is used until the poor 
creature is frightened into submission. One would think such marriages would turn out unhappily. 
Yet they often get much attached to each other. The honeymoon succeeds the quarrelling. The 
marriage tie is not reckoned sacred for life. Should a man's wife die, he will sometimes take back 
his sister whom he had exchanged for the deceased wife. Blacks wiU sometimes, for a limited 
period, exchange wives. This they call Be-ama, I have known men exchange for a month." — 
Mr, John Buhner^ Lake Tyers, Gippsland, MS. 


Female children are sometimes betrothed when they are mere infants — 
indeed it has been known that a child has been conditionally promised to a 
man before birth. If it shonld be a female^ and the man shonld die before the 
girl attains a marriageable age, then she wonld become the property of his heir. 
As a mle, all such obligations are respected. If a girl is betrothed, the father 
or her male protector may refuse for a long time to give his consent to the 
marriage, but the lover waits very patiently, in the full confidence that ultimately 
he will obtain her. Serious fights and troubles ensue sometimes in settling a 
marriage, and yet it does not often occur that a marriage arranged in strict 
accordance with the habits of the tribe is not consummated. 

A man is supposed to have settled his domestic affairs very comfortably 
when he has obtained three or four wives ; two are far from unconmion ; but 
some are obliged to be content with one. 

As girls are usually given in marriage at a very early age, many have the 
cares of maternity added to their other heavy duties at the age of thirteen, or 
even when younger. 

In their natural state the women appear to be prolific in all localities where 
food is plentiful. One man of the Coast tribe, near Melbourne, had five wives 
and eight children ; and it is recorded that the principal man of the Yarra tribe, 
with three wives, had ten children. Wonga, his son, a well-behaved, intelligent 
black, is now living. 

'^ Jenny,'' an Aboriginal female living at Lake Hindmarsh, had ten children 
—once twins ; and « Kitty," who is now living, has had thirteen children, of 
whom the first four were black, the two following half-castes, the seventh a 
black, the three succeeding half-castes, and the last three blacks. 

" Mary," an Aboriginal woman at Lake Wellington, has had twelve children, 
of whom seven are now living. The parents are strong and healthy. 

Australian women not infrequently have twins. The Bev. Mr. Hartmann 
mentions two cases — and the children were full-blooded blacks. 

Mr. John Green says that a boy and a girl — ^twins — ^are now living with 
their parents at the Aboriginal Station at Coranderrk ; and that a woman of the 
Mount Bouse tribe had three children at a birth. They were all full-blooded 

The Bev. Mr. Hagenauer, of the Lake Wellington Station, informs me that 
he knows only of one case of an Aboriginal woman having twins. One of the 
twins died when about five years of age ; the (Jther, named Caroline, is alive, 
and is a strong girl of about fourteen years of age. 

These facts are not trivial, but few will note the importance and significance 
of them.* 

* One who has written well and thoughtfnllj on the dialects, habits, customs, and mythology of 
the Lower Murray Aborigines says, ** An instance of twins being bom is unknown." This shows 
how careful one shonld be in dealing with negatire eridenoe. Though the writer lired for many 
years in a district weU-peopled with natives, he appears to hare failed to ascertain the fact 
that two and three children at a birth are not more rare amongst the Aborigines than amongst 

Orey says that amongst the Aborigines of Western Australia he recorded four instances of 
natire women haying twins ; but he never heard of a greater number of children at one birth. 


A yery &t woman presents such an attractive appearance to the eyes of the 
blacks that she is always liable to be stolen. However old or ugly she may be, 
she will be courted and petted and sought for by the warriors, who seldom 
hesitate to risk their lives if there is a chance of obtaining so great a prize. 

A man who has no female relations that can be exchanged for a young 
woman of another tribe leads an unhappy life. Not only must he attend to his 
own wants, and share the discomforts of the bachelors' quarters, but he is an 
object of suspicion to the older men, who have perhaps two or three young 
wives to watch. There is the fear also that he may violently seize a girl of a 
neighbouring tribe, and thus provoke a war. There is the discontent and unrest 
of such a life, which makes him a dull companion, a quarrelsome friend, and a 
bitter enemy. Sometimes a wife is given to him by some old man who is tired 
of keeping her ; but most often a warrior will steal a woman from another 
tribe, if he cannot inspire an affection and lead her to elope with him. Any 
such act brings about a conflict. As soon as the girl is missed, a search is 
instituted, and the guilty pair are invariably tracked to their hiding-place. 
When the discovery is made, the tribe to which the man belongs is informed of 
it, and there is a gathering of the old men of both tribes, and much talk and 
wrangling follows ; but the main questions to be decided are these : Can a girl of 
the man's tribe be given in exchange for the woman that has been stolen? Is 
the man's tribe willing that the thief shall stand a form of trial somewhat 
resembling the ordeal of the ancient rude nations of Europe? K the first 
question is not settled satisfactorily by some generous creature offering a female 
relative in exchange, the second question is debated, but always on the under- 
standing that the solemn obligation cannot be avoided. 

In the trial — ^it is not a mock trial — ^it must be understood that there wiU be 
always two parties utterly at variance : the lover who has stolen the girl, and 
the man who claims her. That man may be her father, if she be not betrothed ; 
her husband, if she be married ; or her lover, if she be betrothed. 

The old men of each tribe sit facing each other, at some little distance apart ; 
the girl and her claimants stand between them, and the trial begins. The thief 
is provided with a shield (either the Mulga^ or Gee^niy as may be determined by 
the old men, having regard to the weapons of offence), and his assailant, standing 
at a proper distance, hurls spears or other weapons at him. If the culprit 
manages to ward off the weapons, he can claim the woman as his wife, and there 
is an end of the business. If he is seriously hurt, so as to be disabled, her natural 
protector claims the woman ; and if there is a suspicion in his mind that she has 
favored the man who eloped with her, he will not hesitate to kill or maim her. In 
some cases there is a determination to kill or maim the thief. The old men agree 
that all the friends of the girl — ^perhaps to the number of four or five — shall 
throw a certain number of weapons at the offender ; and if they be really in 
earnest, it is then hard indeed for him to escape without iiyury. Again, it 
sometimes occurs on such occasions that in the preliminary meeting of the old 
men some almost-forgotten subject of dispute is brought up ; angry words are 
used ; evil passions arise ; the women clamor and shriek, and add to the 
discord ; and after the trial there is a fight. 


The arrangements made for the trial by combat vary very much. Sometimes 
the men are armed with their most formidable weapons, and there is a battle 
d VcfuJtranee. There is fair-play, invariably. Armed warriors watch the 
contest, and if either should seek to take an unfair advantage, he would be 
punished. * 

While it is true that, as a rule, the females are guarded veiy jealously, it 
sometimes happens that there is no more than simulated anger when two yoimg 
persons elope from their tribes. A young man who has engaged the affections 
of a girl of a neighbouring tribe agrees with her to run away at the first oppor- 
tunity that offers. In the stillness of the night, or just before sunrise, when the 

* Mr. W. E. Stanbridge gives the folloviiig account of the ordeal : — ^** If the wife desert her 
husband for a more favored lover, it Is incnmbent on her family to chastise the gnilty pair ; the 
woman is usually speared by her father or brother, and if the punishment is not attended with fatal 
effects, she is returned to her lawful spouse. The man has either to submit to a certain number of 
spears being thrown at him, in which case he is allowed a small shield to protect himself, or to fight 
a single combat with one of her relatives, or with a selected member of the tribe. The following 
will perhaps serve as an illustration of this custom : — The persons, for the object named, had retired 
early in the morning to a little dell in a vast undulating grassy plain, surrounded in the distance by 
conical hills, some wooded and some bare. Not many paces from the lowest part of the dell bursts 
forth a limpid spring, in a deep little basin encircled with high rushes, which give it the appearance 
.of a huge nest, the reeds and rushes marking its course as it trickles away down a valley at right- 
angles with the delL On one side of this dell, and nearest to the spring at the foot of it, lies a 
young woman, about seventeen years of age, sobbing, and partly supported by her mother, in the 
midst of wailing, weeping women ; she has been twice speared in the right breast with a jagged 
hand-spear by her brother, and is supposed to be dying. A few paces higher up the valley is a 
group of men ; the aged men are seated and the others surrounding the brother, who is armed with 
Leeowll and Mulka, and who is about twenty-eight years old, and of a powerful frame. In the 
middle of the dell, opposite the group of men, stands the other guilty one, a young man about 
twenty-three years of age, a model of agility. He is armed with the same weapons as his adversary, 
and awaits his impetuous onset. A little in his rear, on the other side of the dell, some young 
men — ^his friends — stand armed and ready to assist, if injustice be attempted. Unless the fight be 
with hand-spears, it is very seldom that either of the combatants is killed. The leeowil is a wooden 
battle-axe, the usual implement used in hand-to-hand encounters ; the mulka is a strong piece of 
wood, used as a shield." 

The ordeal was not restricted to the crime of abduction. 

^ Any other crime may be compounded for by the criminal appearing and submitting himself to 
the ordeal of having spears thrown at him by all such persons as conceive themselves to have been 
aggrieved, or by permitting spears to be thrust through certain parts of his body — such as through 
the thigh, or the calf of the leg, or under the arm. The part which is to be pierced by a spear is 
fixed for aU common crimes, and a native who has incurred this penalty sometimes quietly holds 
out his leg for the injured party to thrust his spear through. When a native, after having 
absconded for fear of the consequences of some crime which he has committed, comes in to undergo 
the ordeal of having spears thrown at him, a large assemblage of his fellows takes place ; their 
bodies are daubed with paint, which is put on in the most fantastic forms ; their weapons are 
polished, sharpened, and rendered thoroughly ei&cient. At the appointed time, young and old 
repair to the place of ordeal ; and the wild beauty of the scenery, the painted forms of the natives, 
the savage cries and shouts of exultation which are raised, as the culprit dexterously parries, or — 
by rapid leaps and contortions of his body — ^avoids the clouds of spears which are hurled at him, all 
combine to form a singular scene, to which there is no paraUel in civilized life. If the criminal is 
wounded in a degree judged sufficient for the crime he has committed, his guilt is wiped away ; or, 
if none of the spears thrown at him — for there is a regulated number which each may throw — take 
effect, he is equally pardoned. But no sooner is this main part of the ceremony over than two or 
three duels take place between some individuals who have quarrels of their own to settle. After 
these combatants have thrown a few spears, some of their friends rush in and hold them in their 


coldness of the morning makes heavy the eyes of the sleepers, the young man 
steals from his miam and runs swiftly to the spot appointed for the meeting. 
When they meet, the girl, anxious and full of fears, runs even more swiftly 
than her lover to some sequestered dell, where she hopes they may remain 
undiscovered until the first surprise and natural indignation are no longer 
predominant in the minds of their relatives. The members of the tribe to whom 
the female belongs institute a search, as custom and law require ; but it is not 
prosecuted energetically, nor does the absence of the girl evoke evil passions, if 
by report they have learnt that a young man is missing from the camp of the 
neighbouring tribe. After the lapse of a few days, the young man returns with 

Aims, when the etiquette on such occasions is to struggle violently for a few minutes, as if anxious 
to renew the contest, and then to submit quietly to superior force and cease the combat." — Norths 
West and Western Australia. Grej, rol. n., pp. 243-4. 

Collins gives much information of a verj interesting character respecting the ordeal laws of the 
natives of New South Wales. One native, named Carradah, who had stabbed another in the night, 
but not mortally, was obliged to stand for two evenings exposed to the spears not only of the man 
whom he had wounded, but of several other natives. He was suffered to cover himself with a bark 
shield, and he behaved with great courage and resolution. It appears that throughout he was able 
to protect himself, but finally he allowed one of his adversaries to pin his arm to his side. After 
that there was a general fight — ^men, women, and children taking part in it. 

In another case, where a young man had taken the wife of a native during his absence, spears 
were thrown, and the lover was wounded by the husband. 

Again, a stranger — Gome-boak — a visitor to the natives of Sydney, had to stand, covered with 
his shield, to receive the spears of his hosts, in order to the settlement of some affair of honor. 

Further, he informs us that, in March 1795, *' a young man of the name of Bing^i-^oan-ne, being 
detected in an amour with Hdaw-ber-ry^ the companion of another native — yie-ro-nt-^e Go-ru^ — the 
latter fell upon him with a club ; and, being a powerful man, and of superior strength, absolutely 
beat him to death. Bing-yi-foan-ne had some friends, who, on the following day, called Ye-roF-ni-be 
to an account for the murder ; when, the affair being conducted with more regard to honor than 
justice, he came off with only a spear-wound in his thigh." — An Account of the English Colony in 
New South Wales, by Lieut.-Col. Collins, 1804, pp. 237-259, 285, and 287. 

Mr. Wilhelmi also mentions the ordeal. A murderer at Port Lincoln was tried by his tribe, 
and it was ordered that the brother of the murdered man should hurl two spears at the criminal ; 
and that if he should fail to hit the man, the crime should be expiated. From the violent and wild 
gestures of the warriors, the running about, the jumping, the biting of the beards and the weapons, 
the noise and the grimaces, it was expected that a sanguinary combat would ensue ; but nothing of 
a serious character occurred. The antagonists — if antagonists they can be called — trod from their 
own sides into the foreground, and the avenger threw a spear most skilfully, which was parried as 
ably as it was thrown. Whereupon the combat was brought to a close. 

One very remarkable case is thus described ^— 

<<If one [a native] accidentally kills another of his people, he is punished according to the nature 
of the case — generally, to submit to the ordeal of the spear, as in the affair of Woolorong (jaiias 
Lonsdale), in the year 1844." 

'<ThiB custom was prevalent with the ancient Greeks. — Homer's Iliad, b. 21, lines 62 to 150." 

''Police Beport — Melbourne, 7th April 1844. — Woolorong was suspected of murder, and 
condemned to be speared at by seven of the best men of the Western Port tribe ; as he ran by 
them at a certain distance, he escaped the spears thrown at him ; but a general fight took place, 
and the police had some difficulty in suppressing the affray, after many were seriously wounded. 
Police Keport. — ^Melbourne, 14th April 1844. — Yang^ang {alias Bobert Cunningham), brought up 
for obstructing the chief constable in his attempt to take Woolorong (alias Lonsdale), a Goulbum 
black, for the murder of an Aboriginal boy in the service of Mr. Manton, at Western Port. Yang- 
yang pleaded to the bench that Woolorong was about to submit to the ordeal of spearing, viz. : — 
seven of the principal men of the Western Port tribe were each to throw a spear at him. If he 



his wife to his own people ; and, except that he must bear many taunts from the 
young women his sisters and cousins, and much scolding from the old women, 
and grave threatenings and mutterings of wrath from the old men — ^his new 
state provokes little comment. His young wife is treated well, and is soon 
familiar with all the women of the tribe to which she has become attached. 

The Bev. Mr. Bulmer, of Lake l^ers, in Gippsland, gives the following 
account of a young man's condition in savage society, and how he obtains a 
wife : — ^An Aboriginal is not considered of much importance until he has arrived 
at the age of manhood. While he is a boy he lives under strict control ; his 
food is regulated by the men, not as to quantity but as to quality. There are 

warded them off, he was no longer amenable. If he was killed, satisfaction was complete. He 
farther pleaded, that, had they not been interrupted, he would afterwards have induced Woohrong 
(alias Lonsdale) to surrender himself to the chief constable, or aided to take him. Upon this 
occasion the black natire police refused to act. At the intercession of Mr. Protector Thomas, 
Yang-yang got off with an admonition and f ortj-eight hours' confinement." — Aboriginal Natives of 
New South Wales, bj a Ck>lonial Magistrate, p. 24. 

The late Mr. Thomas, in his notes prepared at my request, giyes another account of this affair. 
Various neighbouring tribes, actuated by friendly feelings, assembled to witness the judicial 
proceedings taken against two of the finest natiyes to be seen at that time — namely, Pole^rrong 
(alias Billy Lonsdale), who stood six feet high, and was named by Sir Richard Bourke after the 
first Police Magistrate in charge of the settlement — Capt. Lonsdale— and Warrador (alias Jack 
Weatherly), a great warrior, who were charged with killing a Warralim black, aged about eighteen 
years, at Torridon, on the Western Port plains, the station of Mr. Charles Manton. The young 
man had been enticed or persuaded to assist in bringing down to Melbourne a mob of cattle from 
beyond the Goulbum River, and thereafter to enter Mr. Manton's service. The poor black had not 
been on Manton's station three weeks before he was found killed, not three chains from Manton's 
house. He had been carrying a bucket of milk from the milking-yard to the house when he was 
struck down. There were two sandhills between the house and the milking-yard, and his body was 
found in the hollow between the sandhills. This native was closely connected with one of the 
principal tribes of the Goulbum River, and the death of the Warralim black was soon made known 
through the press and by oral report. The men who did the murder were at once suspected by the 
tribes firiendly to the Warralim, and they demanded satisfaction of the tribes of the Yarra and 
Western Port. After messengers had been despatched to and fro, it was finally decided that the 
eight tribes should assemble, and that the two offenders should undergo the usual punishment of 
having spears thrown at them by the members of each tribe to which the Warralim belonged. The 
tribes assembled were those of the Tarra, the Coast, the Barrabool, the Bun-ung-on, the Leigh 
River, the Campaspe, the Loddon, and the Goulbum. The two offenders came boldly forward, in 
deep mourning [painted with white-ochre], and stood in presence of their people without any signs 
of fear. They expressed their readiness to receive the spears, one by one ; and nearly one hundred 
were hurled at Pole-orrong in the first instance, and then the same number were thrown at Warrador, 
The accused were not allowed to carry any offensive weapons, but they were permitted to protect 
themselves with the broad shield. They shifted, twisted, and so used their shields as to astonish 
the Europeans who witnessed the ordeaL Each was slightly wounded, but not hit in any part 
where a wound would have proved f ataL 

It is interesting to record the particulars relating to a law of this kind as it exists in Australia. 

The reader may be glad to be reminded that the judicial combat, according to ancient law, was 
taken advantage of by a criminal less than sixty years ago in England : — 

" By the old law of England, a man charged with murder might fight with the appellant, thereby 
to make proof of his guilt or innocence. In 1817, a young maid, Mary Ashford, was believed to 
have been viokted and murdered by Abraham Thornton, who, in an appeal, claimed his right by his 
wager of battle, which the court allowed ; but the appellant (the brother of the maid) refused the 
challenge, and the accused escaped ; 16th April 1818. This law was immediately afterwards struck 
off the statute-book by 59 Geo. m. (1819)."— JETo^cia'f Dictionary of Dates, pp. 39-40. 

See also A Collection qf Celebrated Trials, by W. O. Woodall, vol. i. 


various kinds of meat -which he must not eat ; he cannot enter into any argu- 
ment in camp ; his opinion on any question is never asked, and he never thinks 
of giving it ; he is not expected to engage in fights ; and he is not supposed to 
fall in love with any of the young women. He is, in fact, a nonentity ; but when 
he has gone through the initiatory process of being made a young man, he takes 
his proper place amongst the members of the tribe. He carries his war imple- 
ments about with him, and has his share in Aboriginal politics. He may now 
look upon a woman with eyes of love, and, if he be brave enough, seek a wife 
for himself But this is a very delicate and difficult matter. He may have a 
lover, and she may have declared that she will have him only. She may have 
given him a lock of her hair as a token of her affection, and in the case of an 
Aboriginal this is a mark of the greatest confidence. The blacks are very super- 
stitious about such matters ; they will always take care to destroy any hair they 
cut off. It would frighten a black very much if he or she knew that another 
black had some of his or her hair ; but the young woman will forget these fears 
under such circumstances ; she feels she is safe in the hands of the man she 
first falls in love with. But in spite of all the encouragement given by such 
tokens, the young man will find that he has a difficult work before him, as per- 
haps he may have to fight her father, or her mother, or her brothers, or her 
sisters — even the cousins may claim the right to do battle with him. Hence, if 
a young woman has numerous friends or relations, a young man will think twice 
before he commits himself to the task of winning her ; but it must be done. 
Has not his lady-love said that she will have him, and him only ? She must be 
won at all risks ; so, to provoke the attack, he proposes an elopement ; the frcdl 
one readily consents, and in the black night they take to the bush. Then fol- 
lows a scene which baffles description. When the girl is found to be absent, 
there is hurrying to and fro, the women tearing their hair and scraping the skin 
off their cheeks with their finger-nails. Some, who are nearer relations of the 
missing girl, are chopping their heads with their tomahawks, while above all the 
noises made may be heard, now and then, the lamentations of the mother, whose 
grief is somewhat more real than the demonstrations of those not so nearly 
connected with the fiigitive. " Lathi ! " (my child) is uttered in such piteous 
tones that it would make any sensitive person sympathize with her. The women 
succeed in stirring up the men by their clamor ; their language has not been 
select ; the runaways have not been spared whatever peculiarities each may have 
presented to them in camp, and a lot of epithets are strung together and loudly 
uttered. They are called "long-legged," "thin-legged," "squint-eyed," or 
" big-headed." When the men are really roused, they get together a few war 
implements, as, for instance, a club, a boomerang, and a shield, and they go off 
in pursuit of the missing couple. They know in what direction to go, as the 
young man has confided (as a great secret) the proposed route. All is soon 
discovered, the pair caught, as they cannot travel without revealing a track, and 
the girl is brought back to the camp to receive the punishment which is supposed 
to be due to her crime. When she arrives, eveiy female in the camp must lay a 
hand upon her ; it matters not that they did the same thing when they were 
young — ^they must express their outraged feelings ; that is the custom, and it 


mast be obeyed. The poor young creatnre is often cruelly beaten — indeed 
sometimes receives injuries from which she never entirely recovers. The young 
man also must stand out (he has not forsaken his lady-love), and must fight all 
comers. He is generally worsted. In fiwt he stands quietly while men and 
women hit him until he falls to the ground stunned. He promises, at length, 
that he will not commit the like offence again, but secretly determines that when 
he gets over his wounds, and his lover is again able to walk (for it is possible 
that the blacks may have speared her through the feet), he will run away with 
her again. He runs away with her accordingly when an opportunity presents 
itself, and they are again brought back, and the same scene is enacted. At 
length the girl is really afraid to elope, as the beatings when brought back are 
fearful ; but she does not give up hope of her intended. She alters her tactics. 
She is suddenly seized with a very severe sickness ; her head is affected, and 
altogether she is in a bad way. Her parents get very much afraid she will die. 
Then she remembers that her lover has got a lock of her hair. He is brought 
to account, and confesses that he has the token. Another fight takes place, and 
when the young man has been nearly half-kiUed, the tribe take pity on him, 
and give him to wife the girl for whose sake he has borne so many honorable 

A young woman's life is similar, £ull of trouble until she is married. Even 
then the troubles cease not if she does not get a good husband. At about the age 
of thirteen or fourteen she is marriageable ; a yam-stick is given to her for pro- 
tection, and this precaution is nearly always needed, for it would not be sufficient 
for her to say " no" to an important question. She drives away any young man 
who is smitten with her charms with her yam-stick. Matches are generally 
made up among the young men ; the women never initiate matches, though they 
have a good deal to say when it becomes known that a young woman is sought 
after by some young man. The match is mostly arranged between two young 
men who have sisters or some female relative over whose fate they may happen 
to have control. They follow a system of barter in their matrimonial arrange- 
ments. The young woman's opinion is not asked. When the young men have 
settled the business, they propose a time when one of them is to take a girl for 
his wife. The young man marches up to her equipped as for war, with his club 
{Kalhk) and club-shield {Tum-fnan) in his hands, and indeed these are needed^ 
if he does not wish to receive a blow on his head from the yam-stick which 
would perhaps prevent the further progress of his love making. After a little 
fencing between the pair, the woman, if she has no serious objections to the 

* A correspondent of the Rer. Lorimer Fison's giyea a rery different account of the marriage 
ceremony as it exists amongst the natives of Fraser Island (Qreat Sandy Island), Queensland. It 
appears that " the uncle of the hride goes and ' plenty' talks to all hlackfellows about the marriage. 
Then the bride makes a fire, and the other natives come and place white feathers on her head ; then 
the bride places feathers on the head of the bridegroom ; the bridegroom makes a fire, and every 
one of the blacks present on the occasion brings a fire-stick, and throws it down at the bridegroom's 
fire. The bride is then placed in a bark hut or mia-mia, about six yards fh>m the brideg^om, and 
they are then considered married, but do not come together until nearly two montha after this." 
The white favors and the kind attentions paid to the bride and bridegroom contrast strangely with 
the waddy and the heavy blows that are necessary to a marriage contract amongst the blacks of the 


man, quietly submits, and allows herself to be taken away to the camp of her 
future husband. She there begins to perform at onc5e the duties which usually 
fall to the share of the wife — ^namely, building a new camp — ^getting firewood, 
&c., and on journeys acting as a carrier for all the worldly goods of her husband. 
These are packed on her back, all excepting his war implements, which he him- 
self deigns to carry.* 

Though the marriages of Aboriginals are not solemnized by any rites which 
amongst civilized peoples serve to make the contract, if not binding, at least a 
solemn and serious one, it must not be supposed that, as a rule, there is anything 
like promiscuous intercourse. When a man obtains a good wife, he keeps her 
as a precious possession, as long as she is fit to help him, and minister to his 
wants, and increase his happiness.f No other man must look with affection 
towards her. If she shows favor towards another and be discovered, she may 
suffer heavy punishment — ^be put to death even.f Promiscuous intercourse is 

* Jardine, in his narratiye, refers to this custom. At Camp No. 67, on the Dalhunty Creek, he 
saw the gins carrying spears and shields on the march, the men carrying only a nulla or two. When 
looking for game, the men, of course, carry spears and other implements. 

t ** Considering the industry and skill of their gins and wires [of the Darling] in making nets, 
sewing cloaks, mussel-fishing, rooting, &c., and their patient suhmission to labor, always carrying 
bags containing the whole property of the family while they follow their masters, the great yalue 
of a gin to one of these lazy fellows may be easily imagined. Accordingly, the possession of them 
appears to be associated with all their ideas of fighting; while, on the other hand, the gins hare it 
in their power on such occasions to evince that universal characteristic of the fair, a partiality for 
the brare. Thus it is that after a battle they do not always follow the fugitives from the field, but 
not unf requently go over, as a matter of course, to the victors, even with young children on their 
backs."— TAree Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia^ &;c., by T. L. Mitchell, F.G.S., &c. 

" If a man have several girls at his disposal, he speedily obtains several wives, who, however, 
very seldom agree well with each other, but are continually quarrelling, each endeavouring to be 
the favorite. The man, regarding them more as slaves than in any other light, employs them in 
every possible way to his own advantage. They are obliged to get him sheU-fish, roots, and eatable 
plants." — Encounter Bay Tribe, Meyer. 

" It is the females' province to clear away the grass within the lodge, lest it should take fire; to 
collect firewood and make the fire, which is always very small, so that it may not attract the atten- 
tion of an enemy. When travelling, they always carry fire, that is, a piece of lighted bark. She 
fetches water, if it be near, in a bowl-shapen excrescence of some tree [Tar-nuk]; but if far away, 
it is carried in a small skin taken off* the animal through the opening of the neck; either the feet 
and tail are left on, or the openings are secured by a sinew. 'She also gathers any edible roots or 
succulent vegetables that grow in the neighbourhood. The fieshy roots in general use are called 
Cooloor, Palilla, and Munya; the two first species of geranium are of an acrid flavor until roasted; 
the last is sweet, and frequently eaten uncooked; the roots of the bulrush and an aquatic plant are 
also occasionally used for food. The succulent vegetables in general use are the young tops of the 
Munya, the Sow^higtle, aod several kinds of Fig-marigold, At Mount Gambler the females collect 
large quantities of the roots of the fern, which are eaten when baked, as well as the pretty green 
and gold frogs, and a very fieshy mushroom which is red on the upper and green on the under side; 
these are brought home strung on rushes. Our mushroom is very rarely used. In spring they 
gather cakes of wattle (mimosa) gum, and use it dissolved in water. The implement with which 
the roots are gathered, and which is constantly carried by the women for offensive and defensive 
purposes, is a small pole, seven or eight feet long, straightened and hardened by fire, flattened and 
pointed at the end."— W, E. Stanbridge. 

{ In a review of a work entitled Brides and Bridals, in the Athenaum of the 1 6th November 
1872, there occurs the following very interesting statement: — ^'*An old Welsh law authorized the 
infliction of three blows with a broom-stick on any part of the person except the head,*' but does not 
appear to have "limited the frequency or severity of the doses; and by an ancient continental rule 
the wife was considered to have just cause for complaint only when knocked down with a bar of 


abhorrent to many of them;* and it is hard to believe that even in a lower state 
the male would not have had the same feeling of affection for his mate and an 
equal jealousy of love as we see amongst the Aborigines now. 

Exogamy exists throughout the greater part of Australia probably, but 
there is little or nothing to show whether or not it existed, or, if it was a law, 
how it operated amongst the Aborigines in Victoria. We must seek for in- 
formation amongst those whose habits have not been much affected by the 
intrusion of whites. 

Something, however, is known. 

Mr. Buhner says — ^^ The blacks of the Murray are divided into two classes, 
the Makrqwa/rra or eagle, and the KiUparra or crow. If the man be Mah^uarra^ 
the woman must be Kil-parra, A Mak-quarra could not marry a Mak-quarra 
nor a Kil-parra a Kil-parra. The children take their caste from the mother, 
and not from the fieither. The Murray blacks never deviate from this rule. A 
man would as soon marry his sister as a woman of the caste to which he 
belongs. He calls a woman of the same caste Wurtaa (sister)." Thirty 
years ago this custom was investigated by Grey in South Australia. " The 
natives,'' he says, ^^ are divided into certain great families, all the members of 
which bear the same names, as a family or second name. The principal branches 
of these families, so far as I have been able to ascertain, are the Ballaroke, 
Tdondarup, Ngotak, Nagamook, Nogonyuk, Mongalung, Narrangur."t The 

iron. Blackstone ascribes the oontinnance of the practice of wife-beating among the lower dassesi 
long after it had gone out of fashion with the upper, to the affection of the common people for the 
old common law." 

Cruelty to wiyes — and the infliction of punishment according to law or custom must hare 
inrolyed cruelty — ^is not therefore a practice restricted to sarage nations. According to Mr. 
Jeaflreson — the author of the work here referred to — a slipper was held to be a proper instrument 
of correction. Has this any connection with the throwing of the shoe when the bride and bride- 
groom depart for the honeymoon ? Nearly all our customs are derired from remote ancestors. 

* This I beliere is strictly true as regards the Aborigines generaUy; but since it was written I 
have received information from a settler well acquainted with the Aborigines of the northern and 
central parts of Australia, which suggests that amongst some tribes there are women wholly giyen up 
to common lewdness. He tells me that a woman has been known to trarel alone from Cooper's 
Creek eastwards for a distance of 500 miles solely for the purpose of profiting by prostitution. On 
reaching a camp of blacks, she would make a small fire, so as to raise a column of smoke. This signal 
would bring to her men and boys, and in return for &Tors conferred she would reoeiTe pieces of 
tobacco, a blanket, a rug, or the like. These would again be bartered away for goods that could 
be easily carried; and after the district was exhausted, she would return to her tribe with her gains. 

He says, further, that a man is considered inhospitable—* bad host — who will not lend his 
lubra to a guest. 

I cannot help thinking that these practices are modem — ^that they have been acquired since the 
Aborigines have been brought in contact with the lower class of whites. They are altogether 
irreconcilable with the penal laws in force in former times amongst the natires of Victoria. Yet 
the practices are undoubtedly common in many parts of Australia; and it is right to use the utmost 
caution in dealing with facts of this kind. Isolated cases of criminal intercourse — ^under strong 
temptation— are altogether different from prostitution as said to be practised at this day by the 
natiyes of Cooper's Creek and the Paroo; but these natiyes haye other customs which are not known 
to the Aborigines of the southern parts of Australia. For instance, Mr. Gason says that amongst 
the Dieyerie each married woman is permitted a paramour. 

See also JoumaU of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia, by Edward John Eyre, 1845, 
yol. II., pp. 319-20. 

t Journals qf Two Expeditions of Discovery, Grey, yol. u., pp. 225-6. 


several members of these families again have each a local name, which is 
understood in the district which they inhabit; but the family names extend 
from King Gteorge's Sound to Carpentaria^ ^^ The family names are perpetuated 
and spread through the country by the operation of two remarkable laws : — 

1st. ^^That children of either sex always take the family name of their 
mother." (And reference is made to Gtenesis xx., 12 : — "And yet 
indeed she is my sister ; she is the daughter of my father, but not the 
daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.") 

2nd. "That a man cannot marry a woman of his own family name." 

In this respect — as Grey observes — their custom coincides with that of the 
North American Indians. 

Mr. C. Wilhelmi says that "all the Aborigines in the Port Lincoln district 
are divided into two separate classes, namely, the MaUeri and the Karraru. 
This division seems to have been introduced since time immemorial, and with a 
view to regulate their marriages, as no one is allowed to intermarry in his own 
caste, but only into the other one — that is, if a man is a Matteri, he can choose 
as his wife a Earraru only, and vice versa. This distinction is kept up by the 
arrangement that the children belong to the caste of the mother. There are no 
instances of two Earrarus or two Matteris having been married together, and 
yet connections of a less virtuous character which take place between members 
of the same caste do not appear to be considered incestuous. In addition to this 
general rule, there are certain degrees of relationship within which intermarrying 
is prohibited ; yet, from the indefinite degree of their relationship by blood, 
arising from the plurality of wives, and their being cast off at pleasure, &c., it 
becomes very difficult to trace them exactly. Besides this, friendship among the 
natives leads to the adoption of forms and names strictly in use among relatives 
only ; thus it becomes totally impossible to make out what are real relations or 
apparently so." 

How the knowledge of consanguinity was preserved, under such conditions 
as those described by Mr. Wilhelmi, is difficult to conjecture. Marriages 
between members of certain classes were prohibited, but intercourse between 
males and females belonging to the same class appears to have been regarded 
without disfavor. If the issue of such connections were preserved, to what 
class did they belong? They would not — ^from want of knowledge of their 
origin — ^be in all cases destroyed. Unless it is assumed that in later times their 
laws were relaxed, and that the natives are now living in a state altogether 
different from that which formerly existed, there is nothing in their ancient 
rigid rules regarding marriage which would serve to protect them against the 
evils these rules were enacted to prevent. 

Mr. Francis F. Armstrong, the Government Interpreter to the native tribes 
of West Australia, informs me "that the females a^^e betrothed or promised in 
marriage when very young in a certain line of families or to a particular person 
in that line, and generally are not supposed to marry or be taken out of that 
line : certainly not to have their own choice. The brother of a deceased native 
has a right to the widow, and may, if he is willing, take her." 


The following diagram, forwarded to me by Mr. Armstrotig, ahovs in what 
lines, and with what limitations, Aboriginal marriages may be contracted in 
New Norcia: — 

Mr. Samael Bennett, in his History of Australian Discovery and Coloniza- 
tion, says, in reference to the Aborigines of the north-eastern parts of Australia, 
that "their laws of pedigree and marriage prescribe a complete classification 


of the people of the nature of caste. By means of family names, they are divided 
into four classes. Ippai, Murri, Kubbi, and Kumbo, are the names of the men ; 
and their sisters are respectively Ippata, Mata, Kapota, and Buta. In one 
&mily all the males are called Ippai, the females Ippata ; in another all the 
males are Murri, the females Mata ; in a third all the males are Eubbi, the 
females Kapota ; and in a fourth all the males are Kumbo, all the females Buta. 
Every family in all the Kamilaroi tribes, over a large extent of country, including 
Liverpool Plains, the Namoi, the Barwan, and the Bundarra, is distinguished 
by one of these four sets of names. The names are hereditary ; but the rule of 
descent differs from any other ever heard of. The sons of Ippai (if his wife be 
Kapota) are all Murri, and his daughters Mata ; the sons of Murri are Ippai, 
and the daughters Ippata ; the sons of Kubbi are Kumbo, the daughters Buta ; 
the sons of Kumbo are Kubbi, the daughters Kapota. The law of marriage is 
founded on this system of descent. They have no law against polygamy ; but 
while their law is not careful about the number of a man's wives, it denounces 
capital punishment against any one who marries one of the wrong sort. The 
rule is this : — Ippai may marry Kapota, and any Ippata but his own sister ; 
Murri may marry Buta only ; Kubbi may marry Ippata only ; Kumbo may 
marry Mata only. In some respects, for instance in the larger marriage choice, 
Ippai is a favored class ; but many who exercise a kind of authority are Kumbo, 
and in the course of a few generations every man's descendants come into the 
class of Ippa as well as into that of Kumbo." 

The natives of Port Essington are divided into three distinct classes, which 
do not intermarry. The first is known as Maudrojilly, the second as Mam- 
burgy, the third as Maudrouilly.* 

Of late years this subject has been more carefully investigated. The Rev. 
Lorimer Fison has collected a great deal of useful and important information, 
and has had the assistance of the Bev. W. Ridley and other gentlemen in New 
South Wales. Mr. Fison, jointly with Mr. Howitt, undertook to prepare a 
paper for this work on Australian Kinship. Printed circulars were forwarded 
to settlers in nearly all parts of Australia ; and though only a few replies have 
been received, it is possible that before my labors are completed Mr. Fison and 
Mr. Howitt will be able to submit new views on this highly interesting subject. 
Mr. Howitt has already arranged the system of kinship as it exists in eastern 
Gippsland, and his paper is appended. 

In the proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (vol. 
in.) there is a paper on Atistralian Kinshipj written by Mr. Lewis H. Morgan, 
from original memoranda of the Rev. Lorimer Fison, and many difficult ques- 
tions arising out of the divisions into tribes and classes are lucidly treated. 
Mr. Morgan refers more especially to the Kamilaroi people. They are divided 
into six tribes, and there is a further division into eight classes. After review- 
ing the facts and conclusions, as given in Mr. Fison's memoranda, Mr. Morgan 
says : — 

"Out of the preceding statements we have the full constitution of the 
tribes, with the several classes belonging to each. The classes are in pairs of 

* Stokes, vol. I., p. 893. 



brothers and sisters^ and the tribes themselyes are constituted in pairS; as 
follows : — 

Tribes, MdU. Female. Male, Female. 

1. Iguana (Duli)- - All are Murri and Mata^ or Kubbi and Kapota. 


Emu (Dinoun) 

Kumbo jy 


„ Ippai „ 



Kangaroo (Murriira) 

Murri „ 


„ Kubbi „ 



Bandicoot (Bilba) - 

Kumbo „ 


„ Ippai „ 



Opossum (Mute) 

Murri ,y 


„ Kubbi jy 



Blacksnake (Nurai)- 

Kumbo „ 


„ Ippai „ 


'' The necessary connection of the children with a particular tribe is proven 
by the law of marriage and descent. Thus Iguana-Mata must marry Kumbo ; 
her children are Kubbi and Elapota, and necessarily Iguana in tribe. Iguana- 
Kapota must marry Ippai ; her children are Murri and Mata, and also Iguana 
in tribe. In like manner, Emu-Buta must marry Murri; her children are 
Ippai and Ippata, and Emu in tribe. Emu-Ippata must marry Kubbi; her 
children are Kumbo and Buta, and also of the Emu tribe. The same is true 
with respect to marriages in the two remaining pairs of tribes. It will also be 
seen that each tribe is made up, theoretically, of the descendants, in the female 
line, of two supposed female ancestors. Why Mata and Kapota are found in 
the Iguana, Kangaroo, and Opossum, and not in the other tribes, and why 
. Buta and Ippata are found in the Emu, Bandicoot, and Blacksnake, and not in 
the first three tribes, is not explained, except that it is a part of the constitu- 
tion of the tribal system as it now exists among the Kamilaroi. Moreover, as 
we find that the Iguana, Kangaroo, and Opossum tribes are counterparts of 
each other in the classes they contain, it follows that they are subdivisions of 
one original tribe. Precisely the same is true of Emu, Bandicoot, and Black- 
snake, in both particulars ; thus reducing the six to two original tribes, with 
marriage in the tribe interdicted. It is further shown by the fact that the first 
three tribes could not intermarry, nor the last three, with each other. The 
prohibition which prevented intermarriage when either three tribes was one 
would follow the subdivisions, who were of the same descent, though under 
different tribal names. Exactly the same thing is found among the Seneca- 

Further very ingenious speculations, founded on the data he has obtained, 
are contained in Mr. Morgan's paper. He shows distinctly the effects of this 
division into classes, and how the tribal organization, permitting of marriage 
into every tribe but that of the individual, was defeated by it. 

Before arriving at sure conclusions respecting the laws of marriage and the 
systems of consanguinity, as they exist in Australia, it will be necessary to 
institute careful enquiries in all parts of the continent, and to receive no stat^ 
ment from a black as correct until it has been verified. The natives are only 
too willing, when they are questioned, to seek to please ; and if they catch a 
hint of what is desired — ^and they are quick in apprehension — ^they will frame 
their answers accordingly. 

Mr. George Bridgman, the Superintendent of Aboriginal Stations near Mac- 
kay, in Queensland, says, in a letter to me, that he has carefully considered the 


paper just referred to, and cannot reconcile the system as put forth by Mr. 
Morgan with the facts as they exist within his knowledge. There is an intelligent 
native, firom a district near Brisbane, now in employment in Mackay, who has 
been living with the Kamilaroi people and many others ; and he informs Mr. 
Bridgman that both in his own tribe, and eveiy other in the districts he is 
acquainted with, the system is the same, even where the class names are different. 
Yet the tribes in all places know which class is referred to when its name is 
mentioned, though the languages be not the same. Mr. Bridgman adds : — 

^^ As an instance, the man I refer to has a wife firom these (the Mackay) blacks. 
He tells me he got one belonging to the class that corresponds with that firom 
which he would have got a wife in his own country — though here the class is called 
Woongoan (in the female) and in his tribe by another name. The Kamilaroi 
system, this black says, is the same as that here ; and he gave me the words 
Murree and Kubbee as two of their terms (as in Mr. Morgan's paper), except 
that there is a final 'ee' instead of 4.' The system, as it comes under my notice 
here, is quite simple, and is as follows: — ^All blacks are divided into two classes, 
irrespective of tribe or locality. These are Toungaroo and Wootaroo (end of 
each word sounded 'rue'). The Youngaroo are subdivided into Gurgela and 
Bembia, and the Wootaroo into Coobaroo and Woongo. The first divisions 
have no feminine; the subdivisions have, namely, Coobaroon and Woongoon. 
Every man, woman, and child necessarily belongs to one first division and one 
second. Gurgela marries Coobaroon, and Bembia, Woongoon. Children belong 
to the mothers' primary division, but to the other subdivision. Thus Young- 
aroo-Gurgela marries Wootaroo-Coobaroon, and their children are Wootaroo- 

^' Although on paper this looks rather complicated, it is, when understood, 

very simple The blacks seem to have an ido^ that these classes 

are a universal law of nature, so they divide everything into them. They tell 
you that alligators are Youngaroo, and kangaroos are Wootaroo — ^the sun is 
Youngaroo and the moon is Wootaroo ; and so on with the constellations, with 
the trees, and with the plants.' But even when one knows the language, it is 
hard to get information firom this people, because they lack the power of con- 
centrating and collecting their ideas which is natural to educated people. . • 
• • On the system just described hinges all their ideas of relationship. Their 
terms for father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, &c., &c., are by no means 
synonymous with ours, but convey different ideas. Prom my long connection 
with the blacks, they have given me a name and a grade amongst themselves, 
and there are many here who I do not suppose know my proper name. I have 
several names, but the one I am usually called is Gaonurra, which has no meaning 
— ^is only a name. I am Youngaroo and Bembia, carrying out the former idea ; 
and if I had children they would be Wootaroo and Coobaroo. When a strange 
girl comes here, I do not ask her name — ^that would be improper, according to 
the blacks' ideas — ^nor can I ask what class she belongs to, but I say to another, 
^ What am I to call her?' The answer may be (if she is Coobaroon) Woolbrigan 
uno nulla — ^'Daughter yours she.' Mollee dunilla indu — 'Mollee, say you?' 
Mollee being the term which all fathers call their daughters— daughter meaning 


any young woman belonging to the class which my daughter wonld belong to if 
I had one. I give this example as the easiest way of conveying an idea of their 
system. Blacks in their native state — ^that is before they pick up our manners 
and customs — ^never call each other by name. They always use a term of 
relationship, but use names, in speaking of another, in the third person/' 

Mr. D. Stewart, of Mount Gambier, South Australia, describes, in a letter to 
the Bey. L. Fison, the system observed by him amongst the tribes in his district; 
and it seems to assimilate very closely to that of the natives of Mackay, in 
Queensland. Mankind and things in general are included in the larger divisions, 
just in the manner mentioned by Mr. Bridgman. There is undoubtedly a 
great deal yet to be ascertained respecting the nature of the classifications just 
described and the laws which govern the Australians in their relationships and 

The prohibitions, as they existed amongst the tribes, had the effect of pre- 
venting, or, at any rate, greatly reducing the number of in-and-in marriages ; 
but, as pointed out by Mr. Morgan, the institution of classes had an opposite 
effect — actually compelling in-and-in marriages, beyond the degrees of brothers 
and sisters. The restrictions, even as now stated in the systems I have referred 
to, leave such small scope for sexual selection as to give rise, no doubt, not 
seldom to practices like those described by Mr. Wilhelmi. Why some tribes are 
exogamous and others endogamous ; how such classifications as those existing 
in Australia originated ; why, when the prohibitions were openly disregarded, 
the offenders were punished, and yet secret violations of the rules were passed 
over without notice — are questions which cannot be answered. Further researches 
in countries peopled by savages will enlighten us. At present too little is known 
to admit of any theories being satisfactorily established* The field open to 
investigators is large. Such laws, or laws somewhat similar to those in force 
in Australia, are established amongst various races throughout the world. 

They are thus referred to by Latham : — 

^' Imperfect as is our information for the early history and social condition of 
the Magar, we know that a trace of a tribual division (why not say an actual 
division into tribes ?) is to be found. There are twelve Thums. All individuals 
belonging to the same Thum are supposed to be descended from the same male 
ancestor ; descent from the same great mother being by no means necessary. 
So husband and wife must belong to different Thums. Within one and the 
same there is no marriage. Do you wish for a wife ? If so, look to the Thum 
of your neighbour ; at any rate look beyond your own. This is the first time I 
have found occasion to mention the practice. It will not be the last ; on the 
contrary, the principle it suggests is so common as to be almost universal. We 
shall find it in Australia ; we shall find it in North and South America ; we 
shall find it in Africa ; we shall find it in Europe ; we shall suspect and infer 
it in many places where the actual evidence of its existence is incomplete." * 

Of the many misstatements which have been made firom time to time, and 
perhaps not seldom thoughtlessly, not the least important is that given in the 
work of Count P. E. de Strezelecki, entitled a " Physical Description of Nem 

* Descriptive Ethnology^ vol. i., p. 80. 


SotitA Wales and Van Diemeris Land^^ At page 346, in stating some facts 
believed by him to explain the curtailment of power of continning or procre- 
ating the species, he says that ^^ of these, the most remarkable, and that which 
most directly bears upon the question, is the result of a union between an 
Aboriginal female and an European male — ^an intercourse frequently brought 
about in these countries, either by local customs and notions of hospitality, or 
by the natural propensity of the sexes. Whenever this takes place, the native 
female is found to lose the power of conception on a renewal of intercourse with 
the male of her own race, retaining that of procreating only with the white 
men. Hundreds of instances of this extraordinary fact are in record in the 
writer's memoranda, all tending to prove that the sterility of the female being 
relative only to one and not to another male — and recurring invariably, under 
the same circumstances, amongst the Hurons, Seminoles, Bed Indians, Yakies 
(Sinaloa), Mendoza Indians, Araucos, South Sea Islanders, and natives of New 
Zealand, New South Wales, and Van Diemen's Land — is not accidental, but 
follows laws as cogent, though as mysterious, as the rest of those connected 
with generation." 

M. de Strezelecki's statement need not have been referred to here perhaps 
had it not been accepted and believed by so many, and made the text of some 
lay sermons intended to elevate the white man at the expense of his darker 
brother. A simple denial of the truth of it would be unsatisfactory, if not 
useless. The error has taken such deep root that it is necessary to confront a 
theory (though unsupported by evidence) by numerous incontrovertible facts 
collected by correspondents who have no theories to maintain, and who relate 
only what they know to be true. 

The Bev. Mr. Hartmann, of the Lake Hindmarsh Station, says that a fiiU- 
blooded black woman named Elitty had two half-caste children (Esther and 
Maggie) by a white man (Robertson), and subsequently had a pure Aboriginal 
child (Bobby) by a black man ; and that on the Biver Murray a black woman 
named Charlotte had " Edward," a half-caste, and subsequently " Julia " by a 
full-blooded Australian named " Dick." 

Mr. Green says that there is a woman now on the station named Borat (of 
the Yarra tribe) who has a half-caste son sixteen years of age, named Wandon, 
who is now living at Coranderrk ; and that ten years ago she had a black son to 
<< Andrew," of a Gippsland tribe ; six years ago she had a black daughter to the 
same father; and that one year ago she had a black son to ^^Adam," of the 
Mordialloc tribe. The child is now living at Coranderrk. Mr. Green adds 
that " Eliza," of the Goulbum tribe, had a half-caste child twelve years ago 
(which she killed), and since she has had four full-blooded black children, 
namely, two sons and two daughters — and that the four are now living on the 
station at Coranderrk. 

The Bev. Mr. Hagenauer, of the Lake Wellington Station, states that 
" Lucy," previous to her marriage with " Charles Bivers," her present husband, 
had two half-caste children, both living ; and that after her marriage with the 
full-blooded black she has had six full-blooded Aboriginal children, two of 
whom are dead, and four are living, namely, "Charley," nine years old; 


*' Harriet," seven years old ; " Johnnie," five years old ; and a baby a year and 
a half old. She is again enceinte. 

That " Mary," the wife of the Aboriginal " Barney," has had children as 
follows : — " Toby" (dead), tod " Harry," sixteen years old (living), full-blooded 
Aboriginals ; " Bridget," a half-caste girl fourteen years of age, now living on 
the station ; and a full-blooded Aboriginal boy who died at the age of three 

*' Charlotte " had three full-blooded Aboriginal children ; and subsequently 
a half-caste girl, ^^ Louise," now seventeen years of age ; and again three foil- 
blooded Aboriginal children. Subsequently she had a half-caste child (now 
dead), and the last child was a full-blooded black. 

One properly-authenticated case of a female having borne children to a full- 
blooded black after having had children to a white man would have been sufficient 
to destroy Count Strezelecki's theory, and I have given several cases. I might 
give more. But I pause to ask how Count Strezelecki could have procured 
^< hundreds of instances" of the extraordinary ^^fact" on which he lays so much 
stress? It is easy to obtain positive evidence, as I have shown ; but how Count 
Strezelecki got negative evidence of such a kind as to satisfy the mind of even 
the most credulous observer I cannot guess. Even if a hundred well-authen- 
ticated cases were cited in which black women had lost '^the power of conception 
on the renewal of intercourse with the male of her own race," one might reasonably 
hesitate to accept the theory ; but as he gives no instances, but contents himself 
with a general statement, it is not harsh but simply just to inform those who 
believe the story that there is no truth in it. 

There is no ground for the belief — ^not even the shadow of ground for the 
belief— that the Aborigines of Victoria — ^regarding them simply as animals — 
are in any way different from any other animals which belong to the hnman 
species. Mr. John Green says : — 

^' There are many female half-castes who have had children to white men 
as well as to blacks. There are three half-caste women at Coranderrk who 
are married to black men, and all three have had two children each to their 

'^ There is a half-caste man and a half-caste woman married, and they have 
one child. There are three half-caste women on the station who have had 
children to white men, but they were not married. The children of the latter 
have the complexion of Europeans, and have but little of the Aboriginal caste 
in the face. Only those who are well acquainted with the peculiar features of 
the Aborigines would suspect that these children had Aboriginal blood in their 
veins." * 

* John BriggSy a half-caste Tatmanian, who intermarried with a half-caste Australian, has had 
ten children, of whom eight are now liyiag^three bojs and fire girls. John Briggs was bom in one 
of the islands in Bass's Straits. His wife is the daughter of an Australian woman, who, with her 
sister, was taken to Tasmania at the time that Buckley was remoyed from Fort Phillip to that colony. 
His eldest son is between serenteen and eighteen years of age, and the youngest child is two months 
old. He says he was married in 1844. He is an intelligent man ; tall and well-formed, but weather- 
beaten in appearance. His hair is grey ; his complexion yellow— dull yellow ; his teeth large, and 
not dose together ; his hair woolly, somewhat like that of a negro ; his eyes dark-brown ; his nose 


The case is stated simply and plaiiily, and in plain language^ in the hope 
that those whose habit has been heretofore to dogmatise on questions of so 
much importance may enquire and investigate before they promulgate opinions 
which are likely to retard the advance of science, embitter the relations between 
races whose interests are conflicting, and offer inducements to the strong to be 
cruel to the weak. 

It is the firm belief of the Aborigines that if a man to whom a female is 
betrothed sees or is seen by the mother of the girl, some disaster wiU happen to 
him, or that evil spirits will afflict him : and the mother-in-law carefully avoids 
her son-in-law ; but whether in order to avert evil from him or to protect herself 
has never been ascertained. The origin of this mysterious custom is not known ; 
and those who allow it or conform to it can give no intelligible explanation of it. 
In a state of society in which the sexes are, by reason of wars and the wandering 
habits of the tribes, brought together sometimes in a way that husbands and wives 
would not approve of— this rule is perhaps necessary as a complemental enlarge- 
ment of their rather complex law of marriage. Girls, as has been said, are married 
at an early age, and when old enough to have marriageable daughters might still 
be attractive ; and if, under temptation, any Aboriginal violated tribal rites by 
seeking to associate with the mother of any one of his wives, he might by such 
an act — ^and all the horror and rage which it would evoke — ^render necessary this 
as a salutary regulation. The mother naturally clings to her daughter, and 
would seek her companionship, and thus be brought necessarily into close com- 
munication with her son-in-law, if not prevented by this rule. No sunilar 
binding affection leads the sister to seek her brother. 

If, by accident, a mother-in-law is approached by her son-in-law, she hides 
herself behind a bush, or in the grass, and the man holds up his shield and 
protects himself and passes her as best he can. If the mother-in-law is near 
other members of her tribe at such a time, they endeavour to conceal her, but 
they are not at liberty to say that her son-in-law is approaching, nor may they 
mention his name. Even at the Aboriginal Stations, where the Aboriginals are, 
one may say, civilized, and to some extent weaned from their prejudices, and 
where nearly all their ancient customs are in disuse or forgotten, this one 
lingers ; and a woman will for some reason always avoid the sight of a certain 
man of the tribe. This has been mentioned to me as having given trouble and 
annoyance to the Superintendent of the Station at Coranderrk, where the Abori- 
ginals are living in a state rather above than below that of the lowest class of 

Mr. Stanbridge says that "the mother-in-law, or Gnalwinkurrky does not, 
under any circumstances, allow her Gnalmn^ or son-in-law, to see her. If he 
be near, she hides herself ; and if she require to go beyond where he is, she 
makes a circuit to avoid him, at the same time thoroughly screening herself 
with her cloak." Mr. Stanbridge adds that this remarkable custom is observed 

arched and almost Roman ; his forehead weU-ahaped— iiot harsh and bony, but curredy and the lines 
are good : the frontal sinuses are not prominent. 

He is the only half-caste Bass's Straits man I hare ever had the opportunity of closely examining. 
He is yery different from the half-caste Australian, and is also unlike, the half-caste negro. 


by the aborigines of La Plata ; * but it is known in all parts of the globe where 
the races are in an nncivilized state. It is practised in many parts of Polynesia^ 
if not in all parts ; and it is a recognised custom amongst some tribes in Africa. 
A Elaffir must not look at his mother-in-law. If they meet, they avoid each 
other. The man will leave the common path and take to the bush, holding up 
all he has in his hands to hide his face. The woman cowers low, and puts her 
hands over her eyes. And with them, as with our Aboriginals, the name of the 
6on-in-law must never be mentioned to the mother-in-law. 

It is certain that this avoidance of each other has not originated in, or been 
continued by, any whim or caprice. That peoples differing much from each 
other and widely separated should have the same cuistom, suggests a common 
origin. We have to seek for the reason rather in the conditions under which 
they live ; and with polygamy and strict rules as regards the classes into which 
men and women may marry, it seems, when we carefully consider the matter, 
that it is a rule which would necessarily have to be made for common protection, 
and for the proper maintenance of more important laws. It is easy to conceive 
that not the violation of this rule, but the consequences which would result from 
the habitual violation of it, might make the oral traditions and the doctrines 
and discipline of the sages of the tribe less than waste breath, f 

* On the authority of Dr. McKenna, formerly Consul at Melbourne for the Argentine 
Cronf ederation. It is, howeyer, well known that this is a custom of the Araucanians. 

" I hare noticed, en p<uMant, eeyeral of the peculiar customs of the Aborigines ; and there are 
others I might adyert to, had I time. But one custom springing from their fisunilj relations is so 
singular, and apparently unique, that I must notice it. A trayeller who has described the Aborigines 
of Australia, speaks in approying terms of the extremely modest demeanour of the sexes towards 
each other. He describes the women as taking a circuit to ayoid passing where some men were 
sitting, and carefully screening their faces that they might not be seen. Had he been familiar 
with their customs, he would haye found that this had another source than modest feeling. It was 
the Jrna//t>tii — a custom I haye neyer heard or read of as existing among other people. It is this :— 
As soon as a female child is promised in marriage to any man, from that hour he must never look 
upon his expected wife's mother, or hear her name, and the sanie prohibition was extended to the 
mother. She was neyer to look upon or hear the voice of the man to whom her daughter was to 
be given. I haye neyer been able to trace the origin of this custom ; but the ridiculous reason 
assigned for this strange institution was, that if they saw or heard each other, they would become 
prematurely old and die." — Edward Stone Parker. 

"I may as well here also mention a curious custom they have relatiye to their domestic affairs — 
if such a term can be appUed to such a people. In many instances, a girl, almost as soon as she is 
bom, is given to a man. After this promise, the mother of the child never again yoluirtarily 
speaks to the intended husband before he takes her to himself, nor to any of his brothers, if he have 
any ; on the contrary, she shuns them in the most careful manner. If the future son-in-law, or 
either of his brothers, should yisit the tribe, she is always previously informed of his coming, so 
that she may haye time to get out of the way ; and if by chance she meets them, she coyers her 
head over with her skin cloak. If any present is sent to her, such as opossam or kangaroo, and 
Buch-like food, the receivers rub their faces and hands over with charcoal before it is taken and 
tasted. When, again, a present of a skin cloak is made by the intended son-in-law, the mother gives 
it to her husband to wear for some time before it is favored with her acceptance. This practice is 
adhered to on both sides, for the son-in-law may see his proposed father, but wUl not on any account 
see the mother ; their notions on these matters being, that when their children are married, the 
parents become much older; and if the girl's mother happens to see the proposed husband, it 
will cause her hair to turn grey immediately." — Life and Adventures of William Buckley, p. 89. 

f This horror of the mother-in-law amongst savages cannot fail to suggest to the reader some 
ludicrous notions connected with the habits of highly civilized peoples ; but any reference to them 
more specific than this would be out of place in a work of this kind. 


Wars, accidents, and disease — in the natural condition of this people as 
children of the forest — ^make gaps in the domestic circles. Old men die of old 
age, young men are killed in encounters with men of hostile tribes, and women 
and children fall victims to neglect or cruelty or disease, or are purposely 
murdered ; but when it happens that the head of a family dies, it becomes neces- 
sary to dispose of the widows. We know what would happen to a widow in 
poor circumstances in civilized communities ; and some will say that they know 
what the widows ought to do in a savage state ; but Nature is stronger than 
man's precepts, and it ordains that amongst savages the bereaved females shall 
not be allowed to die of starvation. A widow with her children is taken to the 
miam of the father or brother, and is supported until she can be exchanged for 
a young woman of another tribe. No sentiment is allowed to interfere with 
arrangements designed for her material comfort. She is obliged to mate with 
the man chosen for her by her protector ; and though this mode of disposing of 
her may appear cruel and harsh, it is surely more humane than that neglect 
which a poor widow in a civilized country is sure to suffer. In a civilized 
country, a poor widow and her children it is true do not always die of starva- 
tion ; but if our rules were imposed on the Aborigines, the widows and children 
would certainly die. Let us then judge this people with knowledge, and not 
condemn them and their customs in ignorance.* 

It is rare that European women intermarry with Aboriginals. One case is 
known in Victoria. The daughter of a squatter or farmer, whose principal 
occupation — ^riding through the forest after cattle — ^brought her into daily inter- 
course with a black man — ^formed an affection for him, and finally abandoned 
her home and lived with him in a miam in the bush. Subsequently, they were 
married — ^with what results, as regards their domestic happiness, I know not. 

Mr. Geo. E. Boxall, who appears to be well acquainted with the habits of the 
Aborigines in New South Wales, says that the daughter of a farmer at Burrowa 
became enceinte by a young blackfellow who had been brought up by the girl's 
family. The child bom was a girl, who, if alive, will be now (1876) twenty-one 
or twenty-two years of age. She was named Mary, and resided with her mother 
in 1864 on Pudman's Creek, about fourteen miles from the township of Burrowa, 

It is probable that many such unions are known to the settlers in New South 
Wales and Queensland. The younger members of a femily living in the bush 
— ^far away from towns — if their parents are unable to afford the expense of 
educating them, soon acquire habits which bring them on a level with the 
Aborigines ; and it should excite no surprise that the sisters should emulate the 

* "After a man dies, if his widows baye no children, when the days of mourning are oyer, the 
custom appears to be to offer them as wives, first to his brothers, and then to his first cousins ; but 
if they have children, it is optional on their part whether they marry again." — W, E, Stanbridge, 

Amongst the Bakalai, a tribe in Africa inhabitin|p a tract of country between the Equator and 
2** S. and longitude lO** to 13^ E., a man will not marry a woman of his own tribe or clan ; but 
widows are permitted to marry the son of their deceased husband ; and if there be no son, they are 
allowed to lire with the deceased husband's brother. 

S^ath, and 3nr!al of tht S^ai 


The instincts which govern the behavionr of the lower animals in the treatment 
of their yonng seem to prevail, with some modifications, in all commnnities of 
savages. If produced at the wrong time, or at the wrong place, the yonng are 
neglected or destroyed ; if burdensome, they are abandoned. And yet, stronger 
than the maternal love of the tigress or tiie lioness is that of the Australian 
Aboriginal woman for a favorite child. She will die in an effort to preserve it, 
and as willingly suffer the pangs of hunger, and the prolonged misery of hard 
travel, to secure it from injury. When one which she has loved dies, she keeps 
it still. Its little body is placed in a bag, and she carries it, together with all 
that her master and husband may order her to bear, for days and days through 
the forest, weeping now and again, as the senseless body beats against her sides, 
and seems to chide her for the roughness of the passage. At the camp at night 
it is put in a safe place, and not the most frivolous amongst the young men 
would dare to exhibit by look or gesture his disapproval of the sacred duty of 
the mother.* 

If the loads which she has to carry become inconvenient, the mother will 
unpack the bag containing her child, break its bones with a stone hammer, 
re-pack the remains, and take them with her, even when the stench of the dead 
body is so offensive as to keep her friends at a distance. 

When other ties and other duties make it impossible for the mother any 
longer to keep the relics near her person, they are disposed of either by burial, 
by hiding them in the hollow of a tree, or by committing them to the flames of 
the funeral pile. 

Not less is the regard paid to a deceased person of importance. The hands 
are cut off; and the two nearest relatives carry these mementos, and hold them 
sacred, and thus give evidence of the existence in their minds of feelings and 
thoughts and imaginings which the untravelled European would fain limit to 
the better educated and the more highly organized of our species. 

The modes of disposing of the dead, and the observances on the near decease 
of a member of a tribe who is esteemed or feared, are various. Not one tribe 
has exactly the same customs as another. 

* In the narrative of the Life and Adventures of William Buckley it is stated that the bones of 
deceased children were carried about by their mothers in nets made of hair and twisted bark. The 
nets were tied round their necks by day, and placed under their heads at night ; and the bones were 
invariably affectionately guarded. 


The nortibiem tribes in the Colony of Victoria seem to have placed the dead 
body on a faneral pile, and, with prescribed formalities, lighted the dry wood, 
and thus oonsxmied the corpse. Some placed the body in a running stream. ; 
some threw it across the limb of a tree, so as to be out of the way of the wild 
dog, but not secure from other flesh^ating creatures ; some deposited the dead 
hxmter in a cave ; others wrapped the remains in rugs or mats, and placed them 
on an artificial platform, formed of sticks and branches — ^where the sentinel- 
crow was sure to perch, and add a grim solemnity to the picture ; many interred 
the corpse, or put it in an old mirrn-yong heap, or laid it with others — sacred in 
their memories — in a stone-lined trench cut in the ground. 

Perhaps the most common of all methods, as practised by the Aborigines of 
this period, is that of interring the body. 

The southern tribes have no appointed burial grounds for their people.* 

* The blacks on the Began River, in New South Wales, bury their dead in cemeteries 
resembling those of Europeans. The graves are numerous, and the grounds are ornamented, and 
there are curved walks or tracks through them. On the Lachlan River the graves are marked by 
high mounds of earth, around which are placed rude seats. On the Murrumbidgee and Murray 
(north of Victoria) the graves are covered with thatched huts. On the Darling River they raise 
mounds and cover them with branches of trees, and form a ditch around each mound; and some- 
times, for greater security, enclose the mound with a fence of dead limbs of trees and branches. 
Throughout the continent, however, it is the practice to bury the body near the spot where the 
death occurred. 

Oxley gives a description of a grave which he found on his journey. He thinks it was probably 
that of some person of consideration among the natives. The form of the whole was semicircular. 
Three rows of seats occupied one half, the grave and the outer row of seats the other; the seats 
formed segments of circles, fifty, forty-five, and forty feet each, and were formed by the soil being 
trenched up from between them. The central part of the grave was about five feet high and about 
nine long, forming an oblong pointed cone. Oxley caused the tomb to be opened, and he found 
beneath the solid surface of the ground three or four layers of wood lying across the grave, and 
serving to support the cone of earth above; then several sheets of bark, underneath these dry grass 
and leaves, and at a depth of four feet was the body. The grave was oval, about four feet in 
length and from eighteen inches to two feet in width. The feet of the corpse were bent quite up to 
the head, the arms having been placed between the thighs. The face was downwards, the body 
lying east and west, with the head to the east. It had been carefully wrapped in a great number of 
opossum skins, the head bound round with the net usually worn by the natives, and also the girdle. 
It appeared, after having been enclosed in the skins, to have been placed in a larger net, and then 
deposited in the manner before mentioned. 

To the west and north of the grave were two cypress trees, distant between fifty and sixty feet; 
the sides towards the tomb were barked, and curious characters deeply cut upon them, in a manner 
which, considering the tools they possess, must have been a work of great labor and time. The 
drawing in Oxley's work shows the figures. On one tree I think an attempt has been made to 
represent snakes, and on the other there is probably a copy of the device that the deceased had 
carved on his shield. 

Major Mitchell says that on the Began, not far from Oxiey's table-land, he found the burial 
ground of Milmeridien, and the natives scarcely lifted their heads as they passed it. It is thus 
graphically described: — ^^This burial ground was a fairy-like spot, in the midst of a scrub of 
drooping acacias. It was an extensive space, laid out in little walks, which were narrow and 
smooth, as if intended only for * sprites.' All these ran in gracefully-curved lines, and enclosed 
the heaving heaps of reddish earth, which constrasted finely with the acacias and dark casuarinas 
around. Others, gilt with moss, shot far into the recesses of the bush, where slight traces of still 
more ancient graves proved the antiquity of these simple but touching records of humanity. With 
all our art we could do no more for the dead than these poor savages had done." — Vol. i., p. 317- 

At another spot he saw a large lonely hut of peculiar construction; it was closed on every side, 
the materials consisting of poles and sheets of bark. It stood in the centre of a fiat of bare earth 


The body is buried generally within one or two hundred yards of the spot where 
the death occurred. When a man approaches his end, his relatives and friends 
remove him a short distance from his miam-miam — say five or six yards — and, 
without regard to the weather, lay him upon the grass. One supports his head 
and shoulders, holding him tenderly in his arms. By his side are placed a cord, 
made of grass or some fibre, his opossxmi rugs, which are to form his pall, and 
perhaps some favorite weapons or utensils. If of a good heart and stout, the 
dying man regards these preparations without fear, and talks freely of his 
coming end. Watching him carefully, the attendant sees at length that the 
awful change has come ; and when the last breath has been breathed, he raises 
the body, throws the pall over the head, and, with the help of his neighbours, 
fastens it tightly, passing the cord twice or thrice around the neck. The knees 
of the body are brought quite up to the breast, the elbows over the trunk and 
near the hips, and the hands raised and pressed against the chest, and in this 
position the corpse is made fast with the cords. The pall, meanwhile, has been 
so kept as to conceal the body, and the attendants have scrupulously avoided 
actual contact with the flesh. Three minutes, or less, are sufiScient for these 
preparations, and the corpse is then ready for the last ceremonials and the tomb. 

of considerable extent, which was enclosed bj three small ridges, the surface within the artificial 
area haying been made yery leyel and smooth. The floor of the hat was coyered with a bed of 
rashes, and it was plain it had been recently occupied. A near friend of the deceased had rested 
here and watched the graye, in accordance with custom, until the flesh had left the bones. No Are 
had eyer been made in the hut, but fires had been kindled on the heath outside. — Vol. ii., p. 71. 

Near the junction of the Murrumbidgee and the Murray, Major Mitchell found seyeral grayes 
all enclosed in separate parterres of exactly the same remarkable form, consisting of the same kind 
of doable or triple ridges as those first seen in the lower part of the Lachlan, There were three of 
these parterres all lying due east and west. On one, apparently that most recent, the ashes of a 
hut still appeared oyer the graye. On another, which contained two grayes (one of a small child), 
logs of wood mixed with long grass were neatly piled transyersely; and in the third, which was so 
ancient that the enclosing ridges were barely yisible, the grayes had sunk into a g^rassy hollow. 
Major Mitchell learnt from the widow that such tombs were made for men and boys only, not for 
females, and that the ashes oyer one of the grayes were the remains of a hut which had been burnt 
and abandoned, after the murder of the person whose body was buried beneath had been ayenged by 
the tribe to whom the brother or relatiye keeping it company aboye ground had belonged. — ^Vol. ii., 
p. 87. 

Major Mitchell makes the following general obseryations: — "The g^rayes on these hills [near 
the junction of the Darling and the Murray] no longer resembled those on the Murrumbidgee and 
the Murray, but were precisely the same as those we had seen on the Darling, yiz., mounds sur- 
rounded by and coyered with dead branches and pieces of wood. On these lay the same singular 
casts of the head in white plaster which we had seen only at Fort Bourke. It is indeed curious to 
obserye the different modes of burying adopted by the natiyes on difierent riyers. Por instance 
on the Bogan, they bury in grayes covered like our own, and surrounded with curved walks and 
ornamented ground. On the Lachlan, under lofty mounds of earth, seats being made around. On 
the Murrumbidgee and Murray the graves are coyered with weU>thatched huts, containing dried 
grass for bedding, and enclosed by a parterre of a particular shape, like the inside of a whale-boat; 
and on the Darling, as above stated, the graves are in mounds, covered with dead branches and 
limbs of trees, and surrounded by a ditch, which here we found encircled by a fence of dead limba 
and branches." — ^Vol. ii., pp. 112-13. 

The same explorer noticed in one place a large ash-hlll (mirm-yong heap) on whose ample 
surface the vestiges of a yery ancient grave were just yisible, the grave having been surrounded by 
exactly the same kind of ridges which had been observed around the inhabited tomb near the 
jimction of the Lachlan and Murrambidgee. — Vol. n., p. 148. 


The ground aronnd the body is now cleared of grass^ which is burnt ; and it 
is then carefiilly swept, so that the deceased lies in the centre of a circular 
piece of dry earth, a few feet in diameter. On the ground near the body is 
placed the tomahawk of the dead man, and his nearest of kin stands within or 
near the margin of the circle. The male mourners then assemble. The first 
who arrives seizes the tomahawk and endeavours to maim himself with it, aiming 
a blow usually at the head ; but the relative of the deceased whose duty it is to 
see that all rites are ftdfiUed wrenches it from him, and prevents him from 
inflicting any deadly hurt ; and the mourner then quietly seats himself at a 
distance of three or four or five feet from the corpse. Other mourners follow in 
like manner, performing the same ceremony, and with the same result. None 
is sufiered by the attendant to maim himself. 

Very soon a circle is thus formed on the marge of the cleared space within 
which the body lies ; and if the deceased has made himself remarkable by his 
deeds or his wisdom during life, and if his tribe is large, two, three, or four 
circles of male mourners assemble on such occasions. 

This ceremonial, simple as it is, strikes one with a kind of awe, and begets 
respect for this people, when seen for the first time in the glade of a dense forest. 
The mourners daubed with clay, their faces changed and made strangely to 
resemble one another by the rings around their eyes, which they have carefully 
painted with white earth ; their bent figures, and their looks cast to the ground ; 
the appearance of order and decency which they exhibit — ^make one regard this 
rite as scarcely less solemn than that which is performed when a great warrior 
of our own people is committed to his last resting-place. 

The women are not suffered to come nigh the corpse at this stage of the 
ceremonial. As soon as it is known that death has stricken their companion, 
they muffle the dogs in opossum rugs, and collect in groups beside the trees 
adjacent to the spot where the body lies. They approach not nearer than fifty 
or sixty or one hundred yards. They give utterance to wild lamentations. They 
cry piteously, and make heard the sounds of their sorrow far beyond the space 
occupied by the mourners. There are, however, no screams or hideous outcries. 
We hear the tones of distress. Their notes are plaintive. They swell, and fall, 
and grow faint, and rise again. Theirs is truly the wail of bereaved creatures, 
and there is nothing vulgar in the demonstration, because in their wildest grief 
and sorrow there is the natural and not the affected outpouring of the heart's 
misery and desolation. The nearest group, generally composed of three women, 
leads and directs the sounds of lamentation ; the next responds in fainter and 
yet wilder notes ; and, if the tribe is numerous, the dirge is continued far into 
the forest. 

When the body has lain about half an hour, the doctor, or sorcerer, or priest 
approaches, and he provides each of the inner circle of mourners with a stick 
about six inches in length. The mourners begin to turn up the earth of the 
cleared space with the sticks, making trenches about two inches in depth and 
three inches in width, each trench formed by one mourner meeting that formed 
by his neighbour — so that a circular trench is quickly excavated around the 


The women at this stage cease their lamentations — and all thoughts are 
directed to the result, the thoughts even of those who cannot see but yet know 
that a solemn enquiry has been commenced. 

As soon as the trench is finished, the doctor and the old men examine it. K 
an aperture or hole or excavation made by some insect or worm be found in 
the trench, and if that correspond with some other hole between the trench and 
the dead body, a connection between them is sought for. A straw or a small 
reed is used to discover the connection, and if it be determined, their future pro- 
ceedings are settled ; but if that cannot conveniently be done, a line is drawn 
from the corpse to the aperture in the trench. 

Ini some such way a line is finally drawn, and to whatever point of the horizon 
it is directed, there must the avengers go to get the kidney-fat of the slayer of 
their friend. They must bring back to the tribe not only the kidney-fat, but the 
kidneys and a piece of the flank of the murderer, as a peace offering. By the 
depth of the aperture in the trench the doctor knows and tells the avengers how 
far they must travel to find the sorcerer who has caused the death of their 

* This belief in sorceiy is firmlj implanted in the minds of aU the Aboriginal natires of 
Anstralia^ and the customs arising out of the betief are rarions. Mr. Samnel (Hson finds a curious 
form of superstition in the Cooper's Creek district. He says that the natires attribute great power 
to a hone—MookooeUie-duckana (literaJlji Mookoo, bone ; and duckana, strike) } the. compound word 
signifying ttruek by a bone. 

As soon as a natire becomes at aU unwell, fears are entertained that some enemy has used the 
power of the bone to his injury, and the council of old men assemble to ascertain who is the guilty 

** Should the patient remain a considerable time without a change, or his malady increase, his 
wife, if he have one— or if he hare not, the wife of his nearest relatiye — is ordered to proceed to the 
person who is supposed to hare caused the sickness. She does so, accompanied by her paramour, 
and on arriral immediately makes a few presents to the person suspected of her relatire's illness, 
but makes no accusation against him, contenting herself with simply stating that her relatire is 
fallen ill, and is not expected to recoTer ; whereupon he sympathises with her, and expresses a hope 
that the inralid will soon be well again. Re knows, howerer, perfectly well, though not accused, 
that he is suspected of having caused the malady ; and, on the following morning, acquaints the 
woman that she can return to her relatire, as he would draw aU power away from the bone by 
steeping it in water. Accordingly, the woman carries back the joyful tidings that she has seen the 
party who has the bone, and he has promised to take all the power out of it. Now, should the 
inyalid happen to die, and be a person of any influence, the man who acknowledged to haying the 
bone is murdered on the first opportunity. Men threaten their wives (should they do anything 
wrong) with the bone, causing such dread in their wires, that mostly, instead of having a salutary 
eflfect, it causes them to hate their husbands. The bone is not an ordinary one, but the small bone 
of the human leg ; and one of every two of the natives is charged with having one in his possession 
wherever he may go ; but, in my own experience, I have never seen more than a dozen, and those 
at one of their ceremonies ; as, for instance, when the whole tribe desire to kill at a distance — say 
from fifty to one hundred miles — some influential man of another tribe, they order several of the 
old men to despoil the dead^that is, to take the small leg-bones from many skeletons. Of these, 
the relics of their own tribe, they take from three to eight, which they wrap in fat and emu 
feathers ; all the most noted men of the tribe taking them and pointing towards the place where 
their intended victim is supposed to reside, while doing which they curse the man they desire to 
kill, naming the death they would wish him. All present are bound to secrecy, and the ceremony 
lasts about an hour. Should they learn, after a few weeks, that the man they destine to destruction 
is alive and hearty, they account for it by supposing that some one of the tribe of the person cursed 
had stopped the power of the bone. So strongly are men, women, and children convinced of the 
power of the bone, that no reasoning can shake their belief." 


This inqaest being concluded^ the digging of the grave is ordered. Two men 
are selected for this daty. A dry but not a much elevated spot is generally 

Rerenge for the death of a member of a tribe is rery deliberately pUumed. 

" Should a man of inflaence and well connected — ^that is, hare nomerons relatiyes^die suddenly, 
or after a long illness, the tribe believe that he has been killed by some charm. A secret council is 
held, and some unhappy innocent is accused and condenmed, and dealt with by the Pinya. 

'*The armed band [Pinya] entrusted with the office of executing offenders is appointed as 
follows :^A council is called of all the old men of the tribe ; the chief — a natire of influence — 
selecting the men for the pinya, and directing when to proceed on their sanguinary nussion. The 
night prior to starting, the men composing the pinya, at about seven p.m., move out of the camp to 
a distance of about three hundred yards, where they sit in a circle, sticking their spears in the 
ground near them. The women form an outer circle round the men, a number of them bearing 
fire-sticks in their hands. The chief opens the council by asking who caused the death of their 
friend or relatlre, in reply to which the others name sereral natiyes of their own or neighbouring 
tribes, each attaching the crime to his bitterest enemy. The chief, perceiving whom the majority 
would hare killed, calls out his name in a loud Toice, when each man grasps his spear. The women 
who haye fire-sticks lay them in a row, and, while so placing them, call out the name of some natire, 
tiU one of them calls that of the man previously condenmed, when all the men simultaneously spear 
the fire-stick of the woman who has named the condemned. Then the leader takes hold of the 
fire-stick, and, after one of the old men has made a hole a few inches deep in the ground with his 
hand, places the fire-stick in it, and covers it up, all declaring that they will slay the condemned, 
and see him buried like that stick. After going through some practices too beastly to narrate, the 
women return to the camp. The following morning, at sunrise, the pinya attire themselres in a 
plaited band, painted white (charpoo), and proceed on their journey until within a day's stage of 
the place where they suppose the man they seek will be found, and remain there during the day in 
fear they may be obserred by some straggling native. At sunset they renew their journey until 
within a quarter of a mile of their intended yictim's camp, when two men are sent out as spies to 
the camp, to ascertain if he is there, and, if possible, where he sleeps. After staying there about 
two hours, they report what they have seen and heard. The next thing done is the smearing of the 
pinya with white clay, so as to distinguish them from the enemy, in case any of the latter should 
endeavour to escape. They then march towards the camp at a time when they think the inmates 
are asleep, from about midnight to two a.m. ; and, when within one hundred yards of it, diyide into 
two parties— one going round on one side of the camp, and the second round on the other — ^forming 
a complete circle to hinder escape. The dogs begin to bark, and the women to whimper, not daring 
to cry aloud for fear of the pinya, who, as they inyest the camp, make a very melancholy grunting 
noise. Then one or two walk up to the accused, telling him to come out and they will protect him, 
which he, aware of the custom, does not believe, yet he obeys, as he is powerless to resist. In the 
meanwhile, boughs are distributed by the pinya to all the men, women, and children, wherewith to 
make a noise in shaking, so that the friends and relatives of the condemned may not hear his groans 
while he is being executed. The pinya then kill the victim by spearing him and striking him with 
the two-handed weapon, ayoiding to strike him below the hips, as they believe, were they to injure 
the legs, they would be unable to return home. The murder being consummated, they wait for 
daylight, when the young men of the pinya are ordered to lie down. The old men then wash their 
weapons, and, getting all the gore and fiesh adhering to them off, mix it with some water ; this 
agreeable draught being carried round by an old man, who bestows a little upon each young man to 
swallow, believing that thereby they will be inspired with courage and strength for any pinya they 
may afterwards join. The fat of the murdered man is cut off and wrapped round the weapons of 
all the old men, which are then coyered with fathers. They then make for home." — The Diejferie 
Tribe o/Auetralian Aborigmee, by Samuel Gason, Police-Trooper, 1874. 

Threlkeld mentions a bone — Mur-raJkunr—irMch is obtained by the Ea-ra-kul, a doctor or 
conjuror. Three of the doctors sleep on the graye of a recently-interred corpse, and in the night, 
when the doctors are asleep, the dead person inserts a mysterious bone into each thigh of the three 
doctors, who do not feel the puncture more than if an ant had stung them. The bones remain in 
the flesh of the doctors without causing them any inconyenience. When they wish to kill any 
person, by means which cannot be known, they use the bone in a supernatural manner. The bone 
enters the body of the yictim, and he dies. 


chosen/and the grave, when formed, is about three feet six inches in length, two 
feet or a little more in width, and five feet in depth. With mde implements, 
and sometimes deeply affected hj the circumstances attending this, one of the 
last rites to be performed in disposing of the body of their deceased friend, it has 
again and again been observed that the diggers of the grave are never careless 
or slovenly, and never fail to make it neatly. The sides are straight, and the 
lines are truly parallel. When the excavation is finally completed, the sides 
pared clean, and the whole interior carefully swept, it is ready for the reception 
of the body. At this moment the women renew their lamentations ; and the 
voices of the mourners are raised suddenly, so as to startle those amongst the 
Aborigines who have not attended many burials. But the sounds are not 
suffered to interfere with the serious work of interment. One of the men cuts a 
piece of bark from a suitable tree in the vicinity, and trims it until it is exactly 
the size of the bottom of the grave, where, as soon as it is finished, it is placed, 
and over it are strewn fresh leaves and very small twigs of the gum-tree, so as 
to form a soft bed. The chief mourner now approaches, and standing over the 
grave, one foot on one side of it and one on the other, he suddenly, and with 
passion and energy, tears off his reed-necklace and the band which encompasses 
his forehead, and throws them into the grave. He then runs from the grave 
towards the women, and attempts or seems to attempt to spear them. This 
attack is well understood by the old women, and generally by both old and 
young, and the sorrowful man is allowed to expend his energy, each one taking 
care to avoid injury. The dead man's effects are produced while this is going 
on, and the sorcerer now takes the foremost place. He opens the small bag, and 
slowly and mournfully shakes out the contents ; and in like manner empties the 
large bag. The contents — consisting of pieces of hard stone suitable for cutting 
or paring skins, small relics, twine made of opossum wool, bones for boring 
holes, and perhaps some articles obtained from Europeans — are placed in the 
grave ; and the bags and the rugs of the deceased are torn up and thrown in 
likewise. The sorcerer enquires if there is any other property belonging to the 
dead man : if there is, it is brought forward and placed beside the bags and rugs. 
All the articles which he owned in life must be laid beside his body now that he 
is dead. 

On the completion of these duties, the body is borne towards the grave. This 
is done without ceremony, and in some cases hardly with decency. A stout 
blackfellow takes the deceased on his shoulders, and hastens with his load to 
the grave, where he drops it suddenly into its resting-place, but not so as to 
disturb the earthen walls of the grave. After the breath is out of the body it 
must not be brought into contact with human hands nor with the earth. As the 
heavy weight falls with a dull sound on the resounding bark, the sorcerer cries 
aloud «Koor-re-koorl" He cries "Blood for blood I" or "Life for life!" And 
though a savage cry, not more mournful is the voice of the officiating priest who 
says over the body of one of our nation "Ashes to ashes — dust to dust." The 
wild and weird and mournful cry of the sorcerer has scarcely died away when 
one of the men steps into the grave and adjusts the body. The widow — ^as this 
is done — ^begins her sad ceremonies. She cuts off her hair above her forehead, 


and becoming frantic, seizes fire-sticks, and burns ber breasts, arms, legs, and 
thighs. Bashing from one place to another, and intent only on injuring herself, 
and seeming to delight in the self-inflicted torture, it would be rash and yain to 
interrupt her. She would fiercely turn on her nearest relative or friend and 
bum him with her brands. When exhausted, and when she can scarcely walk, 
she yet endeavours to kick the embers of the fire, and to throw them about. 
Sitting down, she takes the ashes in her hands, rubs them into her wounds, and 
then scratches her fiwje (the only part not touched by the fire-sticks) until the 
blood mingles with the ashes which partly hide her cruel wounds. In this 
plight, scratching her face continually, she utters howls and lamentations and 
quick-voiced curses on the murderer of her husband, which interrupt strangely 
and harshly the soft and tender sounds of woe which come from the groups of 
women in the distance.* 

Neither the cries of the bereaved woman nor her firantic movements are much 
noticed by the men who are charged with the duty of interring the corpse. An 
opossum rug is now put over the body, and carefully wrapped about it, and the 
spaces between it and the walls of the grave are filled in with leaves and tender 
twigs ; and the body itself is now covered with leaves. Another piece of bark, 
similar to that lying in the bottom of the grave, and as well and as neatly trim- 
med, is laid over the covering of leaves and twigs, and little pieces of bark are 
so placed at the sides as to prevent the earth from falling upon the coverings of 
the dead man. This brings the whole within two feet and a half of the surface of 
the ground. These arrangements being satisfactorily completed, a few of the 
principal mourners approach. Each one after the other steps into the grave, 
and, standing on the bark, mournfully contemplates for a few moments the last 
bed of his departed firiend. With eyes cast down, and lip and brow expressive 
of deep sorrow, he is not surely far removed firom his white brother in performing 
this last not unholy office. Mourners not nearly related to the deceased merely 
cast a glance towards the covered body, and give place to others. 

As soon as these simple rites are performed, the men, not hastily and not 
without respect to the dead, fill in the grave with earth, using their hands, and 
sometimes a stone tomahawk. They stop now and again, and trample the earth, 
and when the work is finally accomplished the sorcerer cries, " No-gee-mee," 
" That is enough." 

This voice is the signal to the women, whose wild music is at once stilled — 
the dogs are let loose, and the members of the tribe are again in motion, and 
mingle with one another as before. A few women assemble around the widow, 
minister to her wants, and attempt to console her. 

The grave is finally completed by raising over it a mound of earth, which is 
generally twelve or eighteen inches in height, and about nine yards in length, and 
six yards in width. If the surface of the ground is level, a gutter is made to 

* '*The custom among the Australians of putting dust or ashes on the head, of sharing the 
head, of dipping the beard, aod of lacerating the body at death or in sign of mourning, appears rery 
similar to the practices among the Israel ites in the time of Moses.— Fufe Leviticus xiz., 27, 28; 
Leviticus xxi., 5 ; Jeremiah xlviii, 37; Ezekiel xxvii., 30, 31, 32 ; Bevelation xviii, 19, &c"— Journals 
of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia^ bj Edward John Eyre, 1845, vol. n., p. 353. 



carry off the rain-water. The grass and weeds for a small space around the 
grave are cut with a tomahawk and removed, the roots burnt off, and the place 
is made smooth, and swept. Boughs of trees are placed around it as a fence, a 
fire is made at the eastern end of the grave, and the tribe then desert the spot. 

They desert the spot because they say they believe that the wild black who 
has taken the kidney-fat of the deceased, or the spirit which has destroyed him, 
will wander about the site of the old encampment. This is the reason they give 
for keeping away from the grave ; but it is probable that .the strong human 
instinct which leads men to refrain from amusements, cheerful talk, and the 
common acts of life in the vicinity of tombs and burial places, and the super- 
stitions which are interwoven with all our thoughts of death, rather than any 
dread of wicked spirits, are the causes which lead them to abandon the sepulchre. 
No thought of danger nor dread of ghosts deters the widow from performing 
her duties if the performance of them be practicable. If the new encampment 
is within any reasonable distance of the grave, she visits it every night before 
sunset and every morning before sunrise, and remakes the fire, and sweeps the 
ground, and sits by the lonely bed of her deceased husband, sometimes in silent 
sorrow, sometimes waUing or singing a dirge* as she wanders slowly through 
the forest. Watching her figure, white with the ashes which cover her wounds, 
and feeble from torture, we see a picture of real distress which is far more 
affecting in its simplicity than the more elaborate mourning which civilization 
requires of one bereaved. The fire at the grave is usually kept burning for 
about ten days.f 

If the deceased had in his life performed any remarkable feats, or rendered 
himself notorious as a great hunter, or as a wise counsellor, the sorcerer would 
have made a great speech on the occasion of the burial. Sitting cross-legged 
at the side of the grave, and sometimes lying on his stomach with his head a 
little raised, and sometimes with ear bent down, as if listening to the words of 
the deceased, he would have alternately praised him as a valiant man, or a good 
hunter, or as wise and skilful in deliberation or debate, and then listened for his 

* On one occasion when Major Mitchell was near Rodrigo Ponds he heard a female singing. 
He says, '* While I stood near this spot attending the arriyal of the party, which was still at some 
distance, I overheard a female Toice singing. The notes were pleasing, and rerj different from the 

monotonous strains of the natives in general The soft sounds so expressive of tran • 

quill itj and peace were in perfect unison with the scene around." .... On approaching the 
natives, he found that they took no notice of him. One young man contkiued beating out a skin 
against a tree without regard to the presence of a stranger ; and he discovered long afterwards that 
the female was singing a funeral dirge. It is usual for the relatives of one deceased to seem inatten- 
tive and insensible to whatever people may be doing around them. — VoL L, pp. 117-18. 

f The late Mr. W. H. Wright made mention of the following incident in a note to me: — "Some- 
time about 1844-6 I was informed that the tribe of Aborigines Uving near Wellington Valley were 
coming — ^some twenty-five miles—up the Macquarie River on important business. They proceeded 
by very easy stages — perhaps five miles a day — ^men, women, and children huddled together — and 
some of them bore a sort of hand-barrow, or bier, on which a fire was, with much care, kept 
constantly burning. In this way they proceeded to a grave situated on the BeU River, and there the 
proceedings terminated, and they dispersed. I saw them en route. An intelligent black, who wa« 
my tracker, informed me that their object in proceeding to the grave in question, and of maintaining 
the fire so vigilantly, was to relieve the widow of the deceased (whose remains were interred in the 
grave) from the bar to her marriage with another blackfellow. After the performance of certain 
ceremonies she would be at liberty to marry again — not before." — 30th October 1876. 


replies. The sorcerer would have told the people that as their deceased brother 
had killed many wild blackfellows, so, in justice, should many die for him, and 
that the dead man had promised that if his murder should be sufficiently 
avenged his spirit would not haunt the tribe, nor cause them fear, nor mislead 
them into wrong tracks, nor bring sickness amongst them, nor make loud noises 
in the night. Such a speech would have nerved the arms of the young men, 
and the strongest exertions would have been used to kill many wild black- 
fellows. The women would have urged speed, and the young children would 
have given the men strength by their tears and their alarm ; because all believe 
that if a dead man's wrongs be not avenged, his spirit will return and cause 
calamity to the whole tribe of which he was a member. 

If the death of a black occur after sunset, when there is not time to use all 
the proper ceremonials in the light of day, the body is left in the place where 
the spirit fled ; and the nearest of kin — ^male and female — sit by the side of it 
during the long hours of night. Two fires are made, one at the east side of the 
corpse, and one at the west ; and the male watches the east fire, and the female 
the west. Not until the glare of the morning light has turned the green tree- 
tops to gold does the camp move or the ceremonials begin. 

On the occurrence of the death of a Goulbum black, on the south bank of 
the Biver Yarra, a circumstance attending the last rites baffled the ingenuity of 
the sorcerers not a little. After digging the small trench around the body, no 
aperture was found, neither in the trench nor in the space between that and the 
corpse, and the sorcerers and the mourners were perplexed and uneasy. But the 
wise men were troubled but for a short time. If there was not the ordinary 
manifestation, it was a sign that they were to look for another ; and one sorcerer 
lying on his stomach spoke to the deoeased, and the other sitting by his side 
received the precious messages which the dead man told. The sorcerer, thus 
informed, rose after the lapse of a quarter of an hour, and delivered his speech. 
He told the credulous mourners that the dead man had given instructions as to 
the way which they should go to find the wild black who had taken his kidney- 
fat ; and the people were satisfied. 

Sometimes a black, when he knows that he is dying, will save trouble by 
naming the tribe to whose wicked ai«ts he. has become a victim. Gen-nin — 
well known in Melbourne many years ago, and called by the whites "Jack 
Weatherly " — ^was bitten by a snake, and all the usual remedies failing, and 
Gen-nin knowing that his end had come, told hi^ friends that a man of a tribe 
living in the north, whose country he described minutely, had entered the snake 
and taken his kidney-fat ; and he gave sufficient information to lead to warfare, 
if not to the avenging, by the murder of the right man, of his blood. 

In some cases a strong and often successful effort is made to screen the real 
offender where injury is inflicted on a black. At the gathering of three tribes 
on the banks of the River King, and during a fight which occurred as the 
result of the meeting, one black belonging to the Ovens River tribe was pierced 
through the lungs by a spear. Before he died he screened the tribe he had been 
fighting with by declaring that a wild Murray black had directed the spear, and 
that the black who hurled it had nothing to do with the result 


When a woman or a child dies, none but the bereaved exhibit sorrow. Cere- 
monies there are none. A grave is dug, and the body is buried, and one might 
suppose that the deceased was uncared for but for the fire which is lit near the 
tomb. In burying a young girl, they raise a tumulus, and make a fire on the 
top of it. 

Some tribes inhabiting the country to the north and north-east are said to be 
more than ordinarily scrupulous in interring the dead. If practicable, they will 
bury the corpse near the spot where, as a child, it first drew breath. A mother 
will carry a dead infant for weeks, in the hope of being able to bury it near the 
place where it was born ; and a dead man will be conveyed a long distance, in 
order that the last rites may be performed in a manner satisfactory to the 

When a man is killed in a fight, the tribes enquire whether or not the slain 
was N^uther jumrhuk — sulky or sullen. K violent or mad, N'^ya-arunningy or 
vicious, Kamdooith — that is to say, if he pursued his enemy with malignity, and 
not in the calm manner of a man seeking merely for victory, but rather with 
savage bloodthirstiness — he would be held to be unworthy of decent burial. He 
would be left to chance mutilation and decay in the place where he fell. If he 
were the aggressor, and suffered death, the rites would not be performed. But 
if the victim acted merely in self-defence, his body would be burned, and his 
bones gathered together, and placed with decent care in the hollow branch of a 

The tribes holding country on the Delatite River, Ovens River, Broken 
River, and King River, appear to have burned the bodies of those who had 
been married ; and a man killed accidentally was thought to deserve more than 
common care in regard to the disposal of his body. His bones were collected 
and placed in a hollow tree. The bodies of dead children were, in most cases, 
also placed in the hollow branches of trees. In thus disposing of the body of 
a child, there was neither negligence nor indecent haste. The hollow branch 

* The people of the Wimmera follow some remarkable custoras: — *<Iii August 1649 a smaU 
tribe of blacks was encamped on Pettlt's Creek, a branch of the Wimmera, near its sources in the 
Pyrenees, where one of their number, named * Georgej,' a remarkably fine young man, and a great 
favorite with them, was carried off by consumption. Haying first asked permission, his people 
chose an elevated spot within my paddock, and dug a grave, in which, after the bottom had been 
covered with dry grass, * Georgey's ' remains were placed compactly < folded ' within a good blanket, 
tied round and across with a woollen comforter, and his pannikin and sundry small articles besides. 
The grave was closed with a sheet of bark, and the vault so formed covered with the heaped-up 
soil, and further, a fence was put up to keep the horses off it. In the month of Noyember following 
a great storm of wind and rain swept through the country, and almost as soon as it had cleared off 
'Georgey*s' friends again presented themselves and begged for the loan of spade and shoyel. In. 
reply to my enquiry why they wanted these, I was told that 'poor fellow "Georgey" was too much 
cold and wet and miserable where he was buried,' and they wished to remoye him. Haying exhumed 
the body, they wrapped an additional blanket and comforter round it, placed it on a bier made of 
saplings, and carried it across the creek to another spot in the paddock, and placed it in a hollow 
tree, all the openings in which they carefully stopped with dead sticks, so that no animals could get 
in. The tree was frequently visited, and swept round about ; and the wails of the women used to 
be heard on these occasions. The remains of the poor fellow remained here until a bush-fire con- 
sumed the tree some years afterwards, a heap of ashes and a few calcined bones marking the spot 
when I revisited it."— W. H. JTnyA/, MS., 30th October 1876. 


was cleared of rotten wood, and well swept. The bottom was lined with leaves 
and small twigs, well beaten down with a stiff piece of bark. Over those was 
placed a piece of bark, cat neatly, so as to fit the aperture. The body was 
placed in a rude bark coffin. This was made by peeling the bark off a sapling, 
which formed a sort of tube, in which the deceased child could be securely 

The coffin was placed in the hollow, twigs and leaves thrust in between the 
coffin and the sides of the hollow branch, more leaves and twigs over the top, 
and, finally, a lid of bark so adjusted as to make a very close covering, almost 
impervious to rain. 

The manner of burning tha dead is simple enough. The men gather dry 
branches, dry logs, and dry brushwood, and raise a pile about three feet in 
height, three feet in width, and six or seven feet in length. The woods are 
selected of those kinds which not only ignite easily, but which will continue to 
burn without attention until quite consumed. When the pile is ready — ^when 
it is of the proper height, and every cranny has been stuffed with dry leaves and 
brushwood — two blacks place the dead body on a rude hurdle made of branches, 
and carry it to the pile. "Without touching any part of it, they gently and 
carefully slide it on to the heap, where it is laid in a becoming attitude. Pre- 
ceding the carriers are three or four aged blacks, who, with their spears raised, 
walk solemnly and silently. Throughout the proceedings no word is spoken. 
Green boughs and bark are laid over the body, and the pile is built to a height 
of five feet or more. While the men are busy building the pile, there may be 
seen, about thirty yards off, a black woman sitting by a very small fire. The 
smoke is barely perceptible. She is silent and mournful, and gazes now and 
again at the pile. At the right time, an older woman goes to the fire, and takes 
a lighted stick. Thereupon the younger female weeps passionately, but never 
speaks. The old woman says nothing, but slowly takes her way to the heap of 
brushwood, and lights it. In a moment the whole is in a blaze; and all the men 
at once return to the encampment. Thus silently do they complete their part 
of the duty. After lighting the pile, the old woman returns to the younger, 
who sits by the fire. The elder is really, or affects to be, in great grief, and the 
two mourn together and weep, and wait until the body is entirely consumed.* 

The Goulburn blacks made graves altogether different from those of the 
Yarra or Western Port tribes. For the burial of the body of a deceased warrior 
they dug a grave about five feet in depth, and from the bottom of it they made 
an excavation in a horizontal direction, about three feet in length and two feet 
six inches in height. A bed composed of leaves and small twigs was made in 
the cave thus formed, and the body was placed on it, and the spaces between it 
and the sides packed with leaves and twigs. The mouth of the cave was closed 
with a door, formed of a thick piece of bark, and was fastened securely by stakes 
driven into the ground. The grave was then filled in with earth. At the end of 
the grave most remote from the body, and at right-angles to it, was raised a low 
tumulus in the shape of a shield ( Gee-am). 

* Amongst the Romans it was the next of blood that performed the ceremony of lighting the pile. 


The Barrabool blacks generally stuck a fighting-stick ( Wbrror-warra) at the 
eastern end of the graye of a young man. 

Mr. Daniel Bunce,* an intelligent obserrer, and a gentleman well acquainted 
with the habits of the blacks^ says that no tribe that he has ever met with 
belieye in the possibility of a man dying a natural death. If a man is taken ill, 
it is at once assumed that some member of a hostile tribe has stolen some of 
his hair. This is quite enough to cause serious illness. If the man continues 
sick and gets worse^ it is assumed that the hair has been burnt by his enemy. 
Such an act, they say, is sufficient to imperil his life. If the man dies, it is 
assumed that the thief has choked his victim and taken away his kidney-fat. 
When the grave is being dug, one or more of tlje older men — ^generally doctors 
or conjurors (Buk-na^look) — stand by and attentively watch the laborers ; and 
if an insect is thrown out of the ground, these old men observe the direction 
which it takes, and having determined the line, two of the young men, relations 
of the deceased, are despatched in the path indicated, with instructions to kill the 
first native they meet, who they are assured and believe is the person directly 
chargeable with the crime of causing the death of their relative. 

Mr. John Green says that the men of the Yarra tribe firmly believe that no 
one ever dies a natural death. A man or a woman dies because of the wicked 
arts practised by some member of a hostile tribe ; and they discover the 
direction in which to search for the slayer by the movements of a lizard which 
is seen inmiediately after the corpse is interred. 

There are several methods of ascertaining the direction in which the avengers 
must go for the purpose of finding the wicked person who has compassed the 
death of an Aboriginal. Mr. F. M. Hughan, who is competent to speak of the 
habits of the Aborigines of the Lower Murray, thus describes one very curious 
ceremony which he himself observed in 1851. On the death of an aged head- 
man of a tribe, there gathered together near the grave very many mourners. 
The women, as is customary, burnt themselves with fire-sticks, and howled 
dismally ; and all the proper rites having been performed around the grave, 
which was dug in a sandhill having a gentle slope towards the bank of the Tarn 
Creek, a mound was finally raised and smoothly coated with wet clay. Around 
the mound a circle of spears was formed, and by each spear sat a warrior. 
Another set of less prominent men sat in a circle, each by his spear. Around 
these, and at a little distance, and sitting further apart, the women formed an 
outer circle. Not a sound was heard from the mourners. Sadly and patiently 
they awaited an event which was to be caused by the fierce sun overhead. The 
heat was oppressive, but no murmur arose in the circles. At length the clay 
which covered the grave cracked. The old men drew nigh, and having ascer- 
tained the direction of the first main fissure in the drying clay, they indicated 
the path which the warriors were to take in order to find the person who had 
practised sorcery on their deceased relative. There, as elsewhere, it was the 
duty of the avengers to bring back the kidney-fat of the first man of another 
tribe whom they might meet. 

* Binoe deceased. He was Curator of the Botanical Gardens at Oeelong. 


Mr. Stanbridge, writing of the natives of the central part of Victoria, says 
that '^ when a person dies of a loathsome disease, the body is burned ; while that 
of a young person, whose death is attributable to a different cause, is put into 
a tree to decay. The bones are afterwards collected and buried, the mother 
sometimes securing the small bones of the legs, to wear round her neck as a 
memorial. Persons of matured life, especially old men and doctors, are buried 
with much ceremony. The grave is made in a picturesque spot, to which the 
body is borne by the relatives ; and with it are interred the weapons and other 
articles belonging to the deceased. The grass is cleared away around the grave 
for about a yard at each side, and eight yards at each end, in the form of a 
canoe, and the ground carefully swept daily by the female relatives ; and for a 
time a small fire is made every night at the foot of the grave. K the person 
were much respected, a little covering of boughs or bark upon four supports is 
placed over it, and the canoe-shaped space neatly fenced with stakes." Mr. 
Stanbridge adds that they have the same belief in sorcery as in other parts, and 
that they select men to avenge the death, who go forth and kill the first persons 
they meet, whether men, women, or children ; and the more lives that are 
sacrificed, the greater is the honor to the dead. When a death occurs, the 
women weep and lament, and tear the skin of their temples with their nails. 
The parents of the deceased lacerate themselves fearfully, especially if he be an 
only son. The father beats and cuts his head with his tomahawk, and groans 
bitterly ; and the mother sits by the fire and burns her breast and abdomen 
with a fire-stick until she wails with pain. This continues for hours daily, 
until the time of lamentation is completed. Sometimes the bums are so severe 
as to cause death. The relatives of the deceased cover their heads and the 
upper part of their faces with white clay, which is worn during the time of 
mourning, and widows in some cases have the hair first taken off with a little 
fire-stick, by the doctor or priest, before they assume this badge of woe. The 
dead are rarely spoken of, and never by name. To mention the name would 
excite the malignity of Couit-gil^ the spirit of the departed, which hovers over 
the earth for a time, and finally goes towards the setting sun. 

The following account of the burial ceremonies of the tribes living near the 
mouth of the Kiver Murray is compiled from a report written by the Bev. Geo. 
Taplin. The report was published in the South Atistralian Register: — 

The Narrinyeri, inhabiting the Lakes and the Lower Murray, believe, when 
a death occurs, that sorcery has caused it. When a man dies, his nearest 
relative sleeps with his head on the corpse, and dreams a dream and discovers 
the name of the sorcerer who has caused the death of his friend. When the 
body is being carried to the grave, the male members of the tribe gather around 
it, and they call out the names of those who they think may have practised 
sorcery, watching the dead body all the time. K it moves when a name is 
mentioned, then they know on whom to be avenged. As a rule, the body stirs 
not until the dreamer tells the name of the sorcerer of whom he has dreamt. 
At that sound the bearers bend forward towards the dreamer, believing, and 
making others believe, that the impulse is given by the corpse ; and thereupon 
the tribe is satisfied that the murderer is discovered. The deceased, lying on a 


bier, is placed over a slow fire for a day or longer, and when the skin blisters it 
is removed. All the apertures of the body are sewn up, and it is rubbed with 
grease and red-ochre. Finally, it is set up naked on a stage, formed of branches 
and boughs of trees, and protected by a covering of branches. A small fire is 
lighted under it, which is kept up by the attendants until it is dry ; and finally 
it is wrapped up in mats and placed in a wurley. The friends of the deceased, 
both male and female, lament and wail during the performance of these rites. 
They cut oS their hair ; they smear their faces with fat and pounded charcoal ; 
they beat and cut themselves ; and in other ways give expression to their great 
grief. Not one is indifferent. Any want of proper feeling would expose a 
native to the suspicion of sorcery, and might cause his life to be forfeited. 
While the body is drying, the relatives live, eat, drink, and sleep under the 
putrefying mass, and the females weep continuously, and, if they can, copiously. 
One always stands weeping in front of the corpse during the process of drying. 

The dead body, all anointed with red-ochre and raised in a sitting posture ; 
the smoke now partially hiding it and now sweeping behind it and spreading in 
thin wreaths amongst the boughs ; the old men moving their long wands, on 
which they have tied bunches of feathers, in order to paint the body with ochre ; 
the patient grief-stricken groups standing by ; the weeping and disordered 
females — ^together make up a picture which harmonises with the untilled 
branch-strewn ground, the gaunt grey limbs of the sparsely-foliaged trees, and 
the somewhat harsh lights and shadows of an Australian forest. 

When any one leaves the wurley for a few days, he is expected, on his return, 
to place himself in front of the body and to weep and lament. Not until the 
sorcerer is destroyed, or other expiatory sacrifice made, is the spirit of the dead 
man appeased. If the person named by the dreamer belongs to some tribe of 
the Narrinyeri, a difficulty arises. They may not desire to kill the sorcerer. 
Under such circumstances, they despatch messengers, in order to ascertain the 
temper of the friends and relatives of the sorcerer. Probably the negotiations 
result in the injured tribe formally cursing the slayer of their friend, and all his 
people. If this is done, arrangements are made for a fight, and the hostile 
tribes meet without delay. The men of the tribe to which the dead man 
belonged commence to weep and lament as soon as they see their foes. Their 
opponents mock and deride them, and some of them, dance wild dances, 
flourishing their spears the while. They shout, they laugh wildly, and take all 
means known to them to provoke a fight. If they have long unsettled disputes 
between them, in addition to the inmiediate quarrel, they fight somewhat 
savagely, and one or two may perchance be killed, and the like number severely 
wounded ; but if they are met merely to "give satisfaction" for the injury done 
to the dead man, the fight is interrupted, after a few spears are thrown, by some 
old man, who declares that enough has been done. If the old men on both sides 
agree, the hostile tribes mingle on friendly terms, and there is an end of the 
business. The death is avenged. 

It is usual to preserve the hair of a dead man. It is spun into a cord and 
fitstened around the head of a warrior. Wearing it, he sees clearly, is more 
active, and can parry with his shield or avoid the spears of his foes in a fight. 


The funeral rites — ^as observed by the people of the Encounter Bay tribe, in 
South Australia — ^are thus described by Mr. H. E. Meyer : — 

" Children still-bom, or that have been put to death immediately after birth, 
are burned. If a child dies a natural death, it is carefully packed up, and the 
mother or grandmother carries it about with her for several months, or a year ; 
after which it is exposed upon a tree until the bones are completely cleaned, 
after which they are buried. Young and middle-aged persons are buried in the 
following manner : — ^As soon as the person is dead, the knees are drawn up 
towards the head, and the hands placed between the thighs. Two fires are 
kindled, and the corpse placed between, so as to receive the heat of the fires and 
of the sun. After a few days the skin becomes loose, and is taken off. Such a 
corpse is then called Grinkari. This custom may explain why this name has 
been applied to Europeans, from the resemblance between their color and that 
of the native corpse after the skin has been removed. After this all the open- 
ings of the body are sewn up, and the whole surface rubbed with grease and red- 
ochre. Thus prepared, the corpse is placed upon a hut so arranged that the head 
and arms can be tied. It is then placed with the face to the east, and the arms 
extended, and a fire is kept constantly beneath. It remains thus until quite dry, 
when it is taken by the relations and packed up in mats, and then carried from 
one place to another — ^the scenes of his former life. After having been thus 
carried about for several months, it is placed upon a platform of sticks, and left 
until completely decayed. The head is then taken by the next of kin, and serves 
him for a drinking vessel ; and now his name may be mentioned, which if done 
before would highly offend his relations, and is sometimes the cause of a war. 
This may be the reason of there being several names for the same thing. Thus, 
if a mian has the name Ngnke^ which signifies water, the whole tribe must use 
some other word to express water for a considerable time after his death. If a 
man is killed in battle, or dies in consequence of a wound, he is supposed to 
have been charmed with the plongge. And, in addition to the above-mentioned 
ceremonies, they hold a kind of inquest over the corpse, to ascertain to whom he 
owes his death. One of the nearest relations sleeps with his head resting upon 
the corpse until he dreams of the guilty person. As soon as this is ascertained, 
which is generally after the first or second night, he orders wood to be brought 
to make a kind of bier, upon which the corpse is placed. Several men then take 
the bier upon their shoulders, and the dreamer — striking upon the breast of the 
corpse — asks, ^Who charmed you?' He then mentions the name of some 
person. AU remain quiet. After he has asked this question many times, and 
mentioned several names, he mentions the name of the person he saw in his 
dream. The bearers then immediately begin running, as if mad, pretending 
that the corpse has moved itself. The corpse is then erected as above described, 
and all the friendly tribes come to lament. The nearest relations cut off their 
hair and blacken their faces, and the old women put human excrement on their 
heads — ^the sign of the deepest mourning. If the supposed guilty one should 
come to the lamentation, the dreamer looks narrowly to his countenance, and if 
he does not shed tears, is the more convinced of his guilt, and considers it now 
his duty to avenge his relation's death. The person who sews up the apertures 



of the corpse mns some risk if he does not provide himself with good string ; 
as, if the string should break, it is attributed to the displeasure of the deceased, 
who is supposed to make known in this manner that he has been charmed by 
him : also if the small quill used as a needle should not be suflGiciently sharp to 
penetrate the flesh easily, the slightest movement caused by pressing the blunt 
point into the flesh is supposed to be spontaneous motion of the corpse, and to 
indicate that the sewer is the guilty person. Bather aged persons are not 
treated with all the ceremonies above mentioned, but are merely wrapped up in 
mats and placed upon an elevated platform, formed of sticks and branches, 
supported by a tree and two posts, and, after the flesh has decayed, the bones 
are burned. The very old are buried immediately after death." 

In these observances the Aborigines of the Encounter Bay tribe appear to 
transgress the rule which forbids the touching by the naked hands of a dead 
body. The above is given in Mr. Meyer's own language. It is undoubtedly an 
accurate statement, and serves to show that no particular description of burial 
ceremonies can be held applicable to all tribes, or even to any one tribe if the 
age, character, or position of the deceased was such as to procure for him more 
than ordinary respect. It is probable, however, that the customs of any one 
tribe were rarely departed from without some strong and sufficient reason, even 
when the most distinguished amongst them was consigned to his flinal resting- 

Mr. Charles Wilhelmi gives the following account of the practices of the 
Aborigines of the Port Lincoln district. South Australia: — 

'^Although, on the one side, they possess a fierce and hostile spirit, still, on 
the other, it must be observed that they are capable of the more noble feelings 
of pity and compassion. This is called forth by a dangerous wound, as also by 
tf severe sickness, but still clearer is it observed at and after the death of a 
friend. On such occasions they are accustomed, and particularly the female 
sex, to assemble and to weep bitterly. The loud lamentations to which they 
give vent upon the death of a relative or friend may perhaps be a custom 
inherited from their forefathers, for they always weep together and at the same 
time. They also employ foreign means to produce tears. They rub the eyes 
and scratch the nose, if their own frame of mind should not be sufficiently 
sorrowful, or if the example of others should fail to produce tears. Their weep- 
ing and groans at the commencement of a lamentation seem to be somewhat 
formal and forced, and thus the suspicion arises that they seem more sorrowftil 
than is warranted by their true feelings. Nevertheless, the Bev. Mr. Shurmann 
believes that the Aborigines feel deeply and mourn heartQy the death of a 
friend. One of them is accustomed to break out suddenly into a long-pro- 
tracted plaintive tone, and gradually his example is followed by the others. 
After this lamentation, a profound silence is observed, and in truth their 
behaviour is such as belongs to persons oppressed by great grief. For years 
after the death of a friend on no occasion whatever do they pronounce his 
name. This, as one might suppose, does not proceed from superstition, but 
from the simple reason that they do not wish again to awake their slumbering 
feelings, or, to use their own expression, thaJt they do not wish to roeep too much. 


Should it be absolutely necessary to indicate a deceased person, it is done in the 
following manner: — ^I am a widow — I am fatherless, brotherless, or the like, as 
the case may be, instead of saying my husband, my father, or my brother is 
dead. The last ground on which Mr. Shurmann bases the sincerity of their 
grief is that they risk their lives to revenge their deceased friend, if suspecting 
his death to have been caused by foul means. 

^^ Although at the interment of the dead certain rites and customs are 
generally observed, these are at times dispensed with, as was instanced in the 
case of an old man. After having dug a hole five feet deep and four feet long, 
and spread some dry grass in the bottom, they lowered the corpse into it, with 
the legs bent upwards, as the hole was too short to receive it in its proper 
position. [This is surely a mistake. The dead bodies of the natives are not laid 
at full length.] The head, as is invariably done, was placed at the west end, 
from the notion that the departed souls all reside in an island situated eastward. 
The body was then covered with a kangaroo skin, and sticks having been driven 
immediately above it lengthwise into the sides of the grave, leaving a vacant 
space above it, the whole was then filled up with earth. As the last of this 
simple proceeding, some branches or bushes were collected around the grave, 
with the view, as I should think, of preventing stray cattle and horses from 
trampling upon it. In the immediate neighbourhood only of European settle- 
ments, where they can obtain the necessary tools, are they able to dig such deep 
graves. Further up in the interior, where they are confined to the yam-sticks 
for the operation of digging, the graves are made only sufficiently deep to admit 
the body, the sticks being driven in immediately above it. This custom is 
always observed, very probably in order to prevent the wild dogs from scraping 
up the body." 

These observations appear to refer to the practices of blacks who have been 
contaminated by intercourse with the lower class of whites. They are in other 
respects not in accord with what is known of the wild Aborigines. A black- 
fellow with a yam-stick can dig out a wombat, and two or three or four would 
quickly dig a grave four or five feet in depth, if they considered it proper to 
make it of that depth. Mr. Wilhelmi's obaervatioAs, however, are not without 

Capt. Grey very graphically describes the burial ceremonies of the natives 
of Perth, in Western Australia: — 

"Yen-na and Warrup, the brothers-in-law of Mulligo, were digging his 
grave, which, as usual, extended due east and west; the Perth hcyUya^ Weeban 
by name, who, being a relation of the deceased, could of course have had no 
hand in occasioning his death, superintended the operations. They commenced 
by digging with their sticks and hands several holes in a straight line, and as 
deep as they could; they then united them and threw out the earth from the 
bottom of the pit thus made. All the white saud was thrown carefrdly into two 
heaps, nearly in the form of a European grave, and these heaps were situated 
one at the head and the other at the foot of the hole they were digging, whilst the 
dirty colored sand was thrown into two other heaps, one on each side. The grave 
was very narrow, only just wide enough to admit the body of the deceased. Old 


Weeban paid the greatest possible attention to see that the east and west 
direction of the grave was preserved, and if the least deviation from this line 
occurred in the heaps of sand, either at the head or foot, he made some of the 
natives rectify it hj sweeping the sand into its proper form with boughs of 

trees During the process of digging, an 

insect having been thrown up, its motions were watched with the most intense 
interest, and as this little insect thought proper to crawl off in the direction of 
Guildford, an additional proof was furnished to the natives of the guilt of the 
hoyUyas of that place. When the grave was completed, they set fire to some 
dried leaves and twigs, then, throwing them in, they soon had a large blaze in 
it; during this part of the ceremony, old Weeban knelt on the ground at the 
foot of the grave, with his back turned towards the east, and his head bowed 
to the earth, his whole attitude denoting the most profound attention; the 
duty he had now to perform was a most important one, being no less than to 
discover in which direction the hcyUyMj when drawn out of the earth by the 
fire, would take fiight. Their departure was not audible to conmion ears, or 
visible to the eyes of ordinary mortals, but his power of hoyUya gaduk enabled 
him to distinguish these sights and sounds which were invisible and inaudible 
to the bystanders. The fire roared for some time loudly in the grave, and every 
eye rested anxiously on old Weeban ; the hollow, almost mysterious, sound of 
the fiames as they rose from the narrow aperture evidently had a powerful 
effect upon the superstitious fears of the natives, and when he suddenly raised 
his meerro [womerra — throwing-stick], and then let it fall over his shoulder in 
a due east direction (the direction of Guildford), a grim smile of satisfiiction 
passed over the countenances of the young men, who now knew in what 
direction to avenge the foul witchcraft which they felt assured had brought 
about the death of their brother-in-law. The next part of their proceedings 
was to take the body of MuUigo from tlie females: they raised it in a cloak; his 
old mother made no effort to prevent its being removed, but passionately and 
fervently kissed the cold, rigid lips which she could never press to hers again. 
The body was then lowered into the grave, and seated upon a bed of leaves, 
which had been laid there directly the fire was extinguished, the face being, 
according to custom, turned towards the east. The women still remained 
grouped together, sobbing forth their mournful songs, whilst the men placed 
small green boughs upon the body, until they had more than half filled up the 
grave with them; cross pieces of wood, of considerable size, were then fixed in 
the opposite sides of the grave, green boughs placed on these, and the earth 
from the two side heaps thrown in until the grave was completed, which then, 
owing to the heaps at the head and foot, presented the appearance of three 
graves, nearly similar in size and form, lying in a due east and west direction. 
The men having now completed their task, the women came with bundles of 
black-boy tops which they had gathered, and laid these down on the central 
heap, so as to give it a green and pleasing appearance; they placed neither 
meerro nor spear on the grave, but whilst they were filling in the earth, old 
Weeban and another native sat on their hams at the head of it, &cing the one 
to the north and the other to the south, their foreheads leaning on their clasped 


hands, which rested on one end of a meerroj whilst the other was placed on the 

The following suggestive and highly interesting account of the ceremonies of 
the blacks of the Yasse River, in Western Australia, as described by Mr. Bussel 
in Capt. Grey's work, is valuable : — 

" The funeral is a wild and fearful ceremony. Before I had finished in the 
stockyard, the dead man was already removed, and on its way to the place of 
interment, about a quarter of a mile from the place where the death took places 
and I left our house, entirely guided by the shrill wailing of the female natives, 
as they followed, mourning, after the two men who bore the body in their arms. 
The dirge, as distance blended all the voices, was very plaintive— even musical ; 
nor did the diminution of distance destroy the harmony entirely. Some of the 
chants were really beautiftil, but rendered perhaps too harsh for our ears, in 
actual contact ; for as I joined myself to the procession, and became susceptible 
of the trembling cadence of each separate performer — ^the human voice in every 
key which the extremes of youth and age might produce — ^there was a sensation 
effected which I cannot well describe — ^a terrible jarring of the brain. The fact 
that the involuntary tears rolled down the cheeks of those infants who sat 
passively on their mothers' shoulders, not appreciating the cause of lament, but 
merely as listeners, must prove that these sounds are calculated to affect the 
nervous system powerfully. The procession moved slowly on, and at length 
arrived at the place fixed upon for the burial. There had been a short silence 
previous to coming thus far, as if to give the voice a rest ; for as the body 
touched the ground, and the bearers stood erect and silent, a piercing shriek 
was given, and as this died away into a chant, some of the elder women lacerated 
their scalps with sharp bones, until the blood ran down their furrowed faces in 
actual streams. The eldest of the bearers then stepped forward and proceeded 
to dig the grave. I offered to get a spade, but they would not have it ; the 
digging-stick was the proper tool, which they used with greater despatch than 
from its imperfect nature could have been expected at first sight. The earth, 
being loosened with this implement, was then thrown out with the hands with 
great dexterity, in complete showers, so as to form, in the same line with the 
grave, at both ends, two elongated banks, the sand composing them so lightly 
hurled as to seem almost like drift sand on the sea-shore. In the throw, if 
perchance the right limit was out-stepped, the proper form was retained by 
sweeping. The digging, notwithstanding the art displayed, was very tedious ; 
they all sat in silence, and there were no chants to understand, or to fancy one 
understood, or perhaps to make meanings to. But at length the grave was 
finished, and they then threw some dry leaves into it, and setting fire to them, 
while the blaze was rising up, every one present struck repeatedly a bundle of 
spears with the mearu^ which they held with the butts downwards, making a 
rattling noise ; then, when the fire had burnt out, they placed the corpse beside 
the grave, and gashed their thighs, and at the fiowing of the blood they all 
said, ' I have brought blood,' and then stamped the foot forcibly on the ground, 
sprinkling the blood around them ; then, wiping the wounds with a wisp of 
leaveS; they threw it, bloody as it was, on the dead man ; then a loud scream 


ensued, and they lowered the body into the grave, resting on the back, with the 
soles of the feet on the ground and the knees bent ; they filled the grave with 
soft brushwood, and piled logs on this to a considerable height, being very 
careful aU the time to prevent any of the soil from falling into the apertures ; 
they then constructed a hut over the wood-stack, and one of the male relations 
got into it and said, ^ Mya balung einya ngin-na' — (^ I sit in his house'). One 
of the women then dropped a few live coals at his feet, and having stuck his 
dismantled meerro at the end of one of the mounds, they left the place, retiring 
in a contrary direction from that in which they came, chanting," 

At King Greorge's Sound the body is laid in a short, narrow, and rather 
shallow grave. It is covered with a cloak, and the knees are bent and the arms 
crossed. At the bottom of the grave is placed a sheet of bark, over which are 
strewn leaves and branches. Leaves and green twigs are heaped on the body 
also, and the hole is then filled with earth. Green boughs are placed over the 
grave, and the weapons of the deceased are laid likewise on it. The mourners 
carve circles on the trees that grow near, at a height of six or seven feet from 
the ground ; and, lastly, make a small fire in front. Their mourning is black or 
white, laid on in blotches across the forehead, round the temples, and down the 
cheek-bones, and is worn for a considerable time. They scratch the cheeks to 
produce tears. — (Mr. Scott Nind.) 

Capt. Grey observes that the natives of many parts of Australia, when at a 
funeral, cut off portions of their beards, and singeing these, throw them upon 
the dead body. In some instances they cut off the beard of the dead body, and, 
burning it, rub themselves and the body with the singed portions of it. 

All that relates to the customs of the natives of Cooper's Greek is of more 
than common interest, because they appear to be in many respects inferior to 
those tribes living in parts where food is more abundant and of better quality 
than that obtainable in any part of the great depression towards which Cooper's 
Creek trends ; and I was glad to receive through Mr. A. W. Howitt the following 
paper from Senior Constable James : — 

^^ During a residence of about eight years in that portion of South Australia 
that is inhabited by the Dieyerie tribe of blacks (Cooper's Creek), I had only two 
opportunities of observing the full funeral rites performed by them. As both 
were precisely similar, I will only describe one. The deceased was an old man 
who had been sick for a long time, and there was a considerable number of the 
tribe assembled, having probably come to be present at the obsequies. As soon 
as the breath was out of the body, all the women and children left the wurleys, 
and, sitting down about fifty yards off, the women set up a great wailing, and 
covered their heads and smeared their bodies with pipeclay. Pipeclay on the 
head of a black of this tribe always denotes that the wearer is lamenting the 
death of one of their number. The wailing was kept up for hours ; it was a 
kind of monotonous howl, in which a sort of time was kept, and which now and 
again would almost altogether subside ; then suddenly break out afresh as loud 
and as vehement as ever. I may add that tears often course down the cheeks of 
the women when they are lamenting the dead thus, but there appears to be little 
grief in reality, for, if spoken to, they will at once stop lamenting, and answer 


just as at any other time, the features and voice assiuning the ordinary expres- 
sion and tone. Directly the women left the camp, the men gathered round the 
dead man and pulled his wurley down, so that they could get close around the 
body. An old man then advanced, and, with a green bough of gum in each 
hand, stood astride over the body, facing the head, and, waving the boughs^ 
began to utter a sort of chant (keeping time with the boughs) over the body ; 
at times he would make a sudden pause, and then call the deceased sharply 
by name ; again pausing, as if for a reply. The chant would then go on again 
in precisely the same manner as before, always ending with the abrupt pause 
and sharp call on the dead man by his name. His incantation, or whatever 
it was, was kept up for fully two hours, the rest of the men standing silent 
around the while ; the old man at length appeared to have satisfied himself 
that he could not cause the dead man to answer, and so finished his conjura- 
tion; and saying something in his own language to the other men around, 
they all proceeded to put pipeclay on their heads and little spots of alternate 
red and white all over their bodies. This done, some of the younger men 
were sent off to dig a grave, and the elder ones proceeded to tie the great 
toes of the body together very securely, with strong, stout string, and then 
tied both the thumbs together behind the. back, the body being turned face 
downwards whilst the latter operation was going on. From the manner in 
which the strings were tightened and the care taken over that part of the 
business, one would think that even a strong, healthy living man could not 
break or rise from such bonds. In reply to me, they said the tying was to 
prevent him from ^walking.' The tying of the body being completed, and the 
grave ready, eight men knelt down, four on each side of the body, and, taking it 
up, placed it on their heads, and thus carried it to the grave, followed by the rest 
of the men in a disorderly, straggling crowd. The grave was about a quarter of a 
mile from the camp. It was about four feet deep, and into this two men jumped 
and assisted the bearers to place the body ; then, getting out of the grave, aided 
those present in bringing and laying lengthwise on the body a large quantity of 
dead wood, filling up the grave, and piling it above to the height of about four 
feet and around the ends and sides of the grave, forming thus a pile of about 
twelve feet in diameter, being round on the top. They said that wood was used 
instead of earth to prevent Kintala (native dog or dingo) from scratching into 
the grave and eating the body. The grave was then swept carefully all around, 
so as to obliterate the traces of footsteps, and every one at once returned to the 
camp, and proceeded to re-erect the wurleys a short distance from the camp in 
which the death had taken place, as this tribe never again occupies a camp in 
which a death has occurred. Every night for one moon (four weeks) two old 
men went to the grave about dusk, and carefrdly swept all round it; each morning, 
for the same period, they visited it, to see if there were any tracks of the dead 
man on the swept space. They told me that if they were to find tracks they 
would have to remove the body and bury it elsewhere, as the foot-marks would 
denote that the dead man was ^walking' and discontented with his present grave. 
For some days after a death the women indulge in an occasional howl of lament. 
The men never howl or give utterance to grief; merely wearing the pipeclay and 


red-ochre till it rabs off. All who are aware of the death abstain from the 
mention of the dead man's name. They do not like the conversation to be about 
a dead man ; but if it should take that direction, the dead are not mentioned 
directly by name. Should a white man offend by doing so, they always tell him 
' That one tumble down, no you call im,' which is their method of saying in 
English ^That man is dead, don't mention his name.' When a death has 
occurred, messengers are despatched to the various camps of the whole tribe 
with the intelligence, and the pipeclay mourning is then put on the heads of all, 
young and old of both sexes, and the wailing is raised by the women just as at 
the place where the death has taken place ; but the absent men do not spot their 
bodies with red and white ; only those who assist personally at the funeral rites 
do that, asserting that by that means they run no risk of getting sick by contact 
with the corpse, or, as my informant expressed it, ^ You see very good make-im 
like that ; suppose me no make-im, me tumble down too : that one' (indicating 
the body) ^ growl along-a-me.'" 

Mr. Samuel Gktson, the author of the little work on the manners of the Die- 
yerie people already referred to, gives the following description of the modes of 
disposing of the dead. It appears that the fat of the corpse is eaten : — 

^^ When a man, woman, or child dies, no matter from what cause, the big 
toes of each foot are tied together, and the body enveloped in a net. The grave 
is dug to about three feet, and the body is carried thither on the heads of three 
or four men, and on arrival is placed on its back for a few minutes. Then 
three men kneel down near the grave, while some other natives place the body 
on the heads of the kneeling men. One of the old men (usually the nearest 
relative) now takes two light rods, each about three feet long (these are called 
coonya)^ and holds one in each hand, standing about two yards from the corpse ; 
then, beating the coonya together, he questions the corpse, in the belief that it 
can understand him, enquiring how he died, who was the cause of his death, and 
the name of the man who killed him — as even decease from natural causes they 
attribute to a charm or spell exercised by some enemy. The men sitting round 
act as interpreters for the defunct, and, according as the general opinion obtains, 
give some fictitious name of a native of another tribe. When the old man stops 
beating the coonya, the men and women commence crying, and the body is 
removed from the heads of the bearers, and lowered into the grave, into which a 
native (not related to the deceased) steps, and proceeds to cut off all the fat 
adhering to the muscles of the fSetce, thighs, arms, and stomach, and passes it 
round to be swallowed ; the reason assigned for this horrible practice being that 
thus the nearest relatives may forget the departed and not be continually crying. 
The order in which they partake of their dead relatives is this : — ^The mother 
eats of her children ; the children eat of their mother. Brothers-in-law and 
sisters-in-law eat of each other. Uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, 
grandfathers, and grandmothers eat of each other. But the father does not eat 
of his offspring, or the offspring of the sire. After eating of the dead, the men 
paint themselves with charcoal and fat, making a black ring round the mouth. 
This distinguishing mark is called Munamuroomuroo. The women do likewise, 
besides painting two white stripes on their arms, which marks distinguish those 


who have partaken of the late deceased ; the other men smearing themselves all 
over with white clay, to testify their grief. The grave is covered in with earth, 
and a large stack of wood placed over it. The first night after the burial the 
women dance round the grave, crying and screaming incessantly till sunrise, 
and so continue for a week or more. Should the weather be cold when a native 
dies, fires are lighted near the grave, so that the deceased may warm himself^ 
and often they place food for him to eat. Invariably, after a death, they shift 
their camp, and never speak of or refer to the defunct." 

In Fraser Island (Great Sandy Island), Queensland, they have strange 
methods of disposing of the dead. Old men, old women, and young women 
that are not fat, are rolled in their blankets or rugs, and buried in a grave 
which is dug to a depth of about four feet. They place a sheet of bark over 
the corpse, near the surface, to leave room, as they say, for the spirit or ghost 
{Mothar-mothar) to move about and come up. 

When a young man dies, they first skin him, then cut off his fiesh, which ia 
placed on their spears to dry; the bones are then taken to pieces, the large ones 
are cut asunder, and the marrow emptied out. The various parts — skin, flesh, 
bones, &c. — are finally distributed among the kinsfolks, and carried about by them 
in their bags and baskets, as charms to ward off evil. When old and stale, they 
are placed up in trees, on boughs laid across for this purpose. Sometimes they 
burn the bones of the dead and carry the ashes about with them. Sometimes 
the dead bodies are placed (whole) in trees. They do not like to speak about 
the dead ; among themselves, it is generally done in a sort of a whisper ; and 
they are firm believers in ghosts. 

There is great mourning and crying when a young man dies, and the female 
relatives cut themselves about in a frightful manner with shells, &c. But there 
is very little weeping or wailing when a woman or an old man dies.* 

Capt. Grey, quoting Dr. Duncan, says that when a black of North Australia 
dies, or is killed, the body is buried in the earth, and at the end of five days it 
is dug up again, and the bones, &c., are wrapped up in the bark of trees, and 
these are carried about by the tribe. 

At Cygnet Bay, an officer of the Beagle found a skeleton enveloped in three 
pieces of papyrus bark. All the bones were closely packed together, and the 
head surmounted the whole. 

Comparing the modes of burial as practised by the Aborigines of Australia 
with those of other uncivilized races, there are so many customs and rites 
exactly the same, or similar, that we are not entitled to regard the Australian as 
peculiar in his habits. A stranger who sees a burial of an Australian black is 
apt to suppose that he has witnessed ceremonies unknown elsewhere. But, 
separated by wide seas and vast continents, there are other races who follow the 
like practices, and strangely even those of them which seem, before we reason 
as to the causes, absurd and inhuman. For instance, the avenging of the 
deceased man's blood^under the belief that sorcery has caused his death, and 
that stratagems and subtleties have been used by some enemy — a man of 

♦ From information obtained through the Rev. L. Fison. 



another tribe — is known amongst the Ajitas^ natives of the Philippine Islands. 
A dead warrior amongst them cries from his grave for vengeance. His friends 
arm themselves and disperse through the forests, and kill something — ^man or 
beast — in order that the dead may rest in peace. They break little twigs as 
they pass along as a warning to friendly natives ; but if accident brings them 
near even a friend, then he is regarded as the enemy of the deceased, and must 
die. The same idea moves the Wanyamu6zi and other African tribes to ascribe 
the sickness of a man to sorcery. 

The placing of the dead body on a bier in the woods is a custom always 
observed by the natives of the Nine or Savage Islands ; by the Tahitans ; by 
the Dyaks of Borneo ; by the Araucanians, by the Ahts, and by other tribes of 
American Indians. 

The custom of neglecting the body of a man who has been killed in a quarrel 
brought on by his own misconduct is found, with some modifications, in many 
parts of the world. Amongst the Kaffirs, a man who has been killed by order 
of the king is left to become the prey of wild beasts. A man of the Latooka 
tribe killed in battle remains unburied on the field to be eaten by hyenas. 

The curious method of interring the body in the bed of a running stream is 
practised by the Obongos of Africa;* and the body is placed in the hollow 
branch of a tree in Central Africa, in New Zealand, and in Borneo. The Ashira 
tribe, and the Krumen in Africa, and the Kingsmill Islanders, keep a fire burn- 
ing beside the corpse. The Australian places a bunch of acacia or a throwing- 
stick at the head of the grave of a warrior, and the Manganja tribe lay a weapon 
or an implement of some kind on the tomb. 

The repugnance which some of the Australians have to touch a dead body is 
as strong in the Kaffir and the Bechuana. 

The Latooka and Camma tribes in Africa, and the New Zealanders, smear 
their faces and other parts of their bodies with red-ochre and grease and throw 
wood ashes on their heads when they mourn. 

* " When an Obongo dies, it is usual to take the body to a hoUow tree In the forest, and drop 
it into the hoUovr, which is afterwards filled to the top with earth, leayes, and branches. Sometimes, 
however, they employ a more careful mode of burial They take the body to some running stream, 
the course of which has been preTiousIy diverted. A deep grave is dug in the bed of the stream, 
the body placed in it, and covered over carefully. Lastly, the stream is restored to its original 
course, so that all traces of the grave are soon lost."— rA« Natural History of Man, by J. G. Wood, 
vol. I., p. 540. 

I have already stated that interring bodies in the beds of running streams is practised hy some 
of the natives of Australia ; and when I informed Professor Hearn of this fact, he at once drew my 
attention to the description of the funeral of Alaric, King of the Goths, as given by Gibbon :— <<The 
ferocious character of the barbarians was displayed in the funeral of a hero whose valour and 
fortitude they celebrated with mournful applause. By the labor of a captive multitude, they forcibly 
diverted the course of the Busentinus, a small river that washes the waUs of Consentia. The royal 
sepulchre, adorned with the splendid spoils and trophies of Rome, was constructed in the vacant bed; 
the waters were then restored to their natural channel; and the secret spot where the remains of 
Alaric had been deposited was forever concealed by the inhuman massacre of the prisoners who had 
been employed to execute the work."— GiWon'* Decline and Fall (Dr. W. Smith's edition), 
vol. IT., p. 112. 

^ Ifatiw (^ntawpM and th failg Jife 4 thu Saliua 


It is necessary for a tribe to move very frequently from place to place, 
always keeping within the boundaries of the country which it calls its own — 
now to the spot where eels can be taken in the creeks ; often to the feeding- 
grounds of the kangaroo ; sometimes to the thicker forests to get wood suitable 
for making weapons ; to the sea-coast continually for fish of various kinds ; 
and, at the right season, to the lands where are found the native bread, the yam, 
and the acacia gum. Constantly under the pressure of want, and yet, by 
travelling, easily able to supply their wants, their lives lack neither excitement 
nor pleasure. When the head of a tribe, advised by the council of old men, has 
fixed upon a camping ground at some distance away, notice is given to all the 
&milies at early morning. Such things as they require on their journey they 
carry with them, but property of another kind is secreted in their miams or in 
the hollows of trees, or under stones, or in some thick patch of scrub. In 
leaving it they know well that they will find it when they return. Laden with 
their bags and rugs, and implements and weapons, they wend their way through 
the forest in small parties : the males generally with the males, the females with 
the females ; and the constant chatter and noise, and sometimes the loud calls 
of the men, serve to amuse and cheer the tribe on its journey. Picking up what 
pleases them, observing and noting what they subsequently may require, hunt- 
ing an opossum, gathering buds or flowers or grubs, or lazily polishing and 
improving some favorite weapon when there is a halt — ^men, women, and children 
find the ramble pleasant enough. 

When evening arrives, and the splendid deep blue-purple and rose and yellow 
tints of the anti-twilight cover the eastern sky, the leader, having well regulated 
the pace, comes to the site of the new encampment. He stops, throws down his 
kangaroo rug (Mogrra), sticks his spears in the ground, and at once commences 
important duties. Immediately there is bustle and excitement, running hither 
and thither, and loud " cooeys " from the young men. The leader quietly and 
calmly surveys the forest, and seeing some stately tree having bark suitable to 
his wants, advances slowly towards it. He chops a hole for his foot, takes his 
tomahawk {Kal-baling-elarek or Karr-geing) between his teeth, and gravely 
ascends, chopping holes as he proceeds, managing the whole business easily and 
gracefully. When he has ascended to a proper height, he commences to notch 
the bark, descends and notches it also in the lower part, cuts the sides, and in 
a short time removes with some care a large smooth sheet (Koon-toorrC). Each 
head of a family in like manner procures bark, no one interfering with his 
neighbour ; and in a short time a number of lean-tos are constructed. 



The women gather sticks for the fires, and get water ; and each and all find 
employment of some kind. 

The proper arrangement of the miams is well understood. The Aborigines 
do not herd together promiscuously. There is order and method. If the whole 
of the tribe be present, the dwellings of those comprising the little village are 
divided into groaps, each group being composed of six or more miams. Each 
miam is five or six yards distant from its neighbours, and the groups are at least 
twenty yards apart. 

Mr. Thomas says that he was often struck with astonishment when, on 
approaching a large encampment occupied by several tribes, he observed how 
carefully they had grouped the miams. Most often he could see at once, from 
the positio^ of any one group, from what part the natives had come. The 
groups were arranged indeed as if they had been set by compass. At a great 
encampment formed on a hill about three miles north-east of Melbourne there 
were assembled, more than thirty years ago, eight tribes — ^in all about eight 
hxmdred blacks — and they arranged their camps according to the following 
plan : — 

(1) (4) J 

(2) (3) 

(7) (8) 

1. Loddon. 8. Caxnpaspe. 8. Moant Macedon. 4. Qoalbnrn. 5. Yam. 6. Bar-ra-booL 

7. Western Port 8. Bnn-jong (or Bun-nng-on) and Leigb. 

At an ordinary encampment the miams are arranged in such a way as to 
admit of each having a separate fire, and the fires are so placed that the embers 
cannot ignite the leaves or branches or bark of the miams. Accidental fires 
are of rare occurrence ; but sometimes in a sudden squall the lighted sticks are 
blown about, and cause the destruction of the frail dwellings. 

In arranging the miams, care is taken to separate the young unmarried men 
from the unmarried females and the families, and it is not permitted to the 
young men to mix with the females. They are strict in preserving order 
amongst the young of both sexes, but it happens frequently that all their 
precautions are evaded. The young people find means of communicating with 
each other, and arrange for meetings, notwithstanding that their parents may 
have forbidden them to meet or to speak to each other. These stolen interviews 
are often the cause of quarrels. 

When several tribes meet there are sometimes as many as one hundred and 
fifty or two hundred miams in a camp ; and though each man has to supply his 
wants from the forest, where all is common property, there is seldom a dispute, 
and rarely is an angry word used. 

As soon as the fires are kindled, all the game that has been collected during 
the day is produced and roasted; and a strong odour of singed wool and burning 


meat begins to prevail. If the tribe bas travelled &r — say fifteen or sixteen 
miles — ^and the men are very hnngry, the cooking process is conducted hurriedly; 
and the women and children are prompt in delivering the roots, tubers, and 
fruits they have gathered on their journey. 

As a rule, they are lazy travellers. They have no motive to induce them to 
hasten their movements. It is generally late in the morning before they start 
on their journey, and there are many interruptions by the way. If they are 
wandering through a tract where there is much game, the women and children 
are left to the guidance of only two or three of the men, the rest rambling from 
spot to spot, holding their weapons ready for slaughter, and hunting keenly in 
every likely place. At such times, though the native mind is probably not 
much impressed with the aspects of the landscape, the effect on a stranger who 
comes suddenly in sight of the hunters is strong. To see them stalking through 
the forest with their spears in their hands, now in the deep shades and sunless 
depths of some cleft in the mountains, where their forms are only occasionally 
visible, as they pass through the thick undergrowth of shrubs, or beneath the 
broad green shelter of the tree-ferns-— or, again, as they ascend some steep slope, 
with their faces towards the sun ; their dark figures bronzed by the strong light 
as they move in the sheen of the low fern, whose leaves, reflecting the rays of 
the sun, make the bank a bath of molten silver, in which they seem to wade^ 
to see them thus, or when stepping from the gloom of the forest into the lights 
which fall through the scanty foliage of some of the gums, is a picture which 
cannot be easily described, nor, once seen, forgotten* 

When the miams are built, the fires lighted, the roasting and eating quite 
done, and their family affairs settled to their satisfaction, the men, women, and 
children give themselves up to amusements, or employ themselves in light 
labors. The old men hold grave converse, the warriors and younger men attend 
to the repairs of their weapons and implements, the women chatter together, 
the lads romp on the grass or amidst the fern, or practise themselves in useful 
exercises, and the girls and very young children gather such food as they can 
find on the ground or in the dead timber. 

The forest that an hour before was silent, or echoed only the infrequent notes 
of the bell-bird, or rung with the weird ^^ha 1 ha 1" and "hoo 1 hoo I" of the laugh- 
ing jackass, is now peopled with happy families. Its aspect is changed. Great 
truiiks have had the bark stripped off, branches have been broken, notches 
appear where the hunter has climbed, and the smoke of the fires rising slowly 
through the branches of the tall trees tells the wanderer afar off that the tribe 
is encamped. 

Each little miam is built partly of bark and partly of boughs, or wholly of 
bark or wholly of boughs, according to the state of weather or the whim of the 

* The late Mr. Thomas heliered that at one time, Jn some districts of the Colony of Victoria, 
the natives bnilt and inhabited huts of a much more substantial character than the ordinary bark 
miams. His belief was based on information receiyed from one of the earliest settlers in the 
Western district, who said he saw a natiye village on the banks of a creek, about fifty miles to the 
north-east of Port Faiiy, composed of twenty or thirty huts, some of them capable of holding 


The government of Aboriginal tribes is not a democracy. There are the 
doctors or sorcerers, who, under some circumstances, have supreme power ; there 
are the warriors, who in time of trouble are absolute masters ; there are the 
dreamers, who direct and control the movements of the tribe until their divina- 
tions are fulfilled or forgotten ; there are the old men — councillors — ^without 
whose advice even the warriors are slow to move ; and, finally, there are the old 

twelve people, and strongly bailt. Each hut was shaped somewhat like a bee-hire, was about ten 
feet in diameter, and more than six feet in height. There was an opening about three feet six inches 
in height, which was generallj closed at night with a sheet of bark. There was also an aperture at 
the top about nine inches in diameter, through which the smoke of the fire escaped. In wet weather 
this aperture was covered with a sod. These buildings were firmly built, and plastered with mud, 
and were strong enough to bear the weight of a man. It is said that they also constructed dams in 
the creek for the purpose of taking fish. 

In Gellibrand*8 memoranda of a trip to Port Phillip (1836), mention is made of native huts, and 
at one place he says about one hundred native huts were found near water. He found also many 
*< native wells." — TranseutioTu of the Philosophical Institute of Victoriaf vol. ni., p. 63-85. 

A squatter — ^who was one of the earliest settlers in the Wannon district — says that the natives 
had comfortable huts at the time he first occupied the country. They were dome-shaped, made of 
branches of trees, and covered with grass and clay. The opening, protected by a porch, was 
always towards the north-west, whence came only gentle breezes occasionally — never strong winds 
or storms. Observing this peculiarity — and having ascertained that a house presenting such a front 
was protected from gales — ^he built his own bush residence with its doors and windows towards the 
same quar ter. 

Similar accounts are given by explorers who have visited other parts of Australia. 

Grey found on the Hutt River, in West Australia, ''native villages, or, as the men termed them, 
towns. The huts ot which they were composed differed from those in the southern districts, in bebig 
much larger, more strongly built, and very nicely plastered over the outside with clay, and clods of 
turf, so that, although now uninhabited, they were evidently intended for fixed places of residence. 
This again showed a marked difference between the habits of the natives of this part of Australia 
and the south-western portions of the continent; for these superior huts, well-marked roads, deeply- 
sunk wells, and extensive warran grounds, all spoke of a larg^ and, comparatively speaking, resident 
population, and the cause of this undoubtedly must have been the great facilities for procuring food 
in so rich a soil." — North- West and Western Australia, by George Grey, vol. ii., pp. 19-20. 

Similar huts were found by Grey on the road to Water Peak ; and in his progress towards 
Hanover Bay he discovered a hut " built of a frame- work of logs of wood, and in shape like a 
bee-hive, about four feet high and nine feet in diameter. This hut was of a very superior descrip- 
tion to those he found afterwards to be generally in use in South- Western Australia, and differed 
ih>m them altogether, in that its low and narrow entrance rendered access impossible without 
stooping; and, with the exception of this aperture, the hut was entirely closed." — Ibid, vol. i., p. 72. 
The following is M. F iron's description of the habitations of the Aborigines, which he saw at Cape 
Lesueur (lat. 25^ 40^ S.), Shark's Bay, in Western Australia : — '* Au fond d'une petite crique qui 
se trouve immldiatement k Test du Cap Lesueur, j'aper9us trois ouvertures semicirculaires assez rap- 
procb^es les unes des autres, et trop regulidrement semblables entre elles pour qu'il fdt possible de 
les attribuer au hasard seul. Je m'avan9ai ; un grand nombre d'empreintes de pieds humains 
paroissaient sur le sable ; et des debris de f eux recemment allumes ii Tentree de ces esp^ces de sou- 
terrains, ne me permettoient pas de douter qu' ils ne fussent Touvrage des indigenes et qu* ils ne 
leur servissent de retraite. Pour lever toute esp^ce dincertitude, je m*engageai dans Tun de ces 
reduits obscurs : k peine il avoit un m^tre de hauteur k son orifice ; il fallut done me courber pour 
y entrer, et m*y trainer pour ainsi dire, k quatre pattes. Sa profondeur etoit d'environ 5 metres, 
sur une largeur du tiers de cette demi^re dimension. La partie superieure de la voOlte ^toil assez 
nnie ; mais de distance en distance on avoit pratique dans le has plusieurs petites cavites qui me 
■embldrent propres k recevoir quelques ustensiles de manage. Le plancher inf ^rieur de cette habita- 
tion ^toit tapiss^ d*une couche epaisse d'herbes marines. L'eloignement oik je me trouvois alors de 
la chalonpe, mon isolement, et surtout la nuit qui s*approchoit, ne me permirent pas de parcourir 
les deux autres souterrains ; mais par tout ce que j'en pus voir, ils me parurent absolument sem- 


women, who noisily intimate their designs, and endeavour by clamor and 
threats to influence the leaders of their tribe. The young men, and those 
amongst the elders who have not distinguished themselves, and the women and 
the children, are led by the principal man of the tribe ; but he acts only in such 
manner as the old men and the sorcerers and the dreamers have agreed to 
approve. Though each of the principal men and priests seeks for his food, and 

blables it celui qne je viens de decrire. Quelque grossi^res que de tettes habitations pnisBent etre, 
elles n'en sont pas moins les plus parfaites qne nons ayons en Toccasion d'observer k la Nouyelle- 
Hollande ; sons ce rapport, il en est de mSme des cabanes dont j'ai dej^ parl6, mais qn'il conylent de 
&ire connoitre lei dans tons leurs details. Snr nn sol de sable pr^^demment deponllle de toute 
esp^e de v^g^tanx, s*eldvent ces cabanes de la terre d'Endracht ; elles ont la forme d'une demi- 
sph^re leg^rement d6prim6e dans sa partie superieure ; le dereloppement de lenrs parois decrit un 
tour de spire ; de manidre qne Tentree en est oblique et laterale, ^-pen-pr^s comme celle d'une co* 
quille de lima^on. Leur hauteur est de 12 ti 16 d^im^tres (4 k 5 pieds) sur nn diam^tre de 20 k 25 
decimetres (6 k hnit pieds). Elles se composent d'arbrisseanx implantes dans le sable, rapproch^s 
entre eux, le plus ordinairement disposes sur deux on trois rangs ; et dont les rameaux^ reconrbes 
dans toutes les directions, entrecroises dans tons les sens, forment la Youte sup6rieure, et comme le 
plancher de ces habitations. Sur cette route sont appliquees i Text^rieur plusieurs couches de 
feuillages et d'herbes sdches, recouTertes d'une grande quantite de sable. A pen de distance et ris- 
k-yis rouyerture de chacune de ces espies de fours, on volt les restes d'autant de gros f eux, antour 
desquels gisent 9a et \k quelques debris d'alimens." — Voyage de Dicouvertee aux Terres Auetrales, 
pendant les annies 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, et 1804, par M. F. F^ron, toI. ii., p. 207. 

Ernest Giles sajs, '* At ten miles, I came to a number of natiye huts ; they were of large 
dimensions and two-storied." — Travels in Central Australia, p. 81. 

In another place — ^near Glen Osborne— Giles found seyeral natiye huts in the scrub, of large 
dimensions, the natiyes haying used the largest trees thej could get to build them with. He supposed 
that the natiyes get water in this arid tract from the roots of the Mulga-tree. Near some of the 
Mulga-trees he noticed that circular pits had been dug. The trees, he says, die after being tapped.— 
Ibid, p. 103. 

In tracing the course of the Gwydir, Sir Thomas MitcheU found "huts of a natiye tribe 
tastefully distributed amongst drooping acacias and casuarin» ; some resembling bowers under 
yellow, fragrant mimose ; some were isolated under the deeper shades of casuarinsd ; while others 
were placed more socially — ^three or four huts together fronting to one and the same fire. Each was 
semicircular or circular, the roof conical, and from one side a flat roof stood forward like a portico 
supported by two sticks. Most of them were close to the trunk of a tree ; and they were coyered 
—not, as in other parts, by sheets of bark, but with a yariety of materials such as reeds, grass, and 
boughs. The interior of each looked clean, and to us, passing in the rain, gaye some idea not only 
of shelter, but eyen of comfort and happiness." — ^Vol. i., p. 76. 

In sight of the Nundawlkr Kange, the same explorer found huts substantially constructed, and 
well-thatched with dry grass and reeds. — Vol. i., p. 121. 

On the Lower Darling, he saw huts of a strong and permanent construction, each forming a 
semicircle, and facing inwards or to the centre, the open side of the cnnre being towards the east. 
One hut was unusually capacious and on a commodious plan, and might easily haye contained twelye 
or fifteen persons. Sir Thomas Mitchell giyes a plan of this hut in his work. In it were many 
small bundles of the wild flax, eyidently in a state of preparation for making cord or line nets, 
and for other purposes. Each bundle consisted of a handful of stems twisted and doubled once, 
but the decayed state of these showed that the hut had been deserted. — Vol. i., p. 262. 

Bunce describes the formation of a camp when a tribe was oyertaken in a storm : — ^" There 
were signs of rain, the sky became oyercast, thunder was heard in the distance, and forked 
lightning played amongst the branches of the trees. The women were busy with their tomahawks 
in stripping large flakes or sheets of bark from the stringybark trees, and setting forks and 
saplings whereon to place the bark for the erection of willams, or dwellings, as a shelter. The only 
parties disengaged were the blackf ellows, whose duties appeared to be to pray for fine weather by 
a continued melancholy chant. This office they continued for a short time after the rain commenced, 
and when all the rest of us had retired under shelter ; but finding that their good diyinity, in the 


ministers to his own wants (with snch help as he gets from his wives), and has 
no one whom he can call servant, yet he enjoys the pleasures belonging to the 
exercise of power. If a doctor, he orders, and he is obeyed ; if a dreamer, he 
dreams, and the interpretation of his dream is received as tmth ; if a warrior, 
the fighting-men obey him ; if an old man, all pay respect to him. The women 

present iniUnce, wu deaf to their appeals, they exclaimed—' Marmingatka 6ic//arto pork'wadding : 
quanthueeneera f ' ' Marmingatha is yery sulky — and why ? ' ; and they commenced throwing ashes 
in the direction in which they belieyed she resided, saying ' T*'see Waugh,!* an exclamation of 
contempt and defiance— after which they returned to the willams." — Autiralanatie Reminiseencet, 
Bunce, p. 73. 

Stnrt fonnd, on or near the hanks of the Macqiiarie Rirer, a gxonp of serenty huts, each capahle 
of holding from twelre to fifteen persons. They appeared to he permanent habitations, and all of 
them fronted the same point of the compass. In another place he found in the thickest part of a 
Urush of Melaleuca a deserted Tillage. The spot had evidently been chosen because of the shelter 
afforded by the shrubs. The huts were large and long, all facing the same point of the oompaas, 
and in eyezy way resembling the huts occupied by the natiyes of the Darling. — Sitar^e ExpedUum^ 

''The natiye camps as far north as the seyenteenth parallel of south latitude are generally bark 
Jean-ftM, made of two upright forked sticks, with a sapling resting in the forks, and a sheet of bark 
laid against the sapling and curring oyer it. Further north there are what are caUed * two-story ' 
camps. These are formed of four forks, with saplings on each side, and with cross pieces laid on 
them. On these rests a sheet of bark bent in the centre, tent fashion. Fires are always found at 
each end. These camps are usually on high ground, and out of the reach of fioods. The fires, it is 
belieyed, are intended to driye off the mosquitos. In some instances, where forked saplings were 
not obtainable, the roots of trees were utilized. They were turned end up, the stems being buried 
in the ground. In the dry season, a sheet of bark doubled in the middle witli the ends resting on 
the ground is the usual coyering. On the coast their camps are all made of bent and arched 
saplings, and filled in with boughs, forming closed chambers, either round or oblong j sometimes 
of considerable size, and haying a hole to get in at. At other places only bough Uanrtoe occur." — 
Mr, Norman TayhTf Oeolagical Surveyor^ MS» 

Ordinarily their dwellings are of a yery unsubstantial character. In the Port Lincoln district 
"their habitations are of a yery simple and primitiye construction. In the summer and in dry, fine 
weather they heap up some branches of trees in the form of a horseshoe, for protection against the 
winds; in the winter, and in wet weather, howeyer, they make a kind of hut or bower with the 
branches of the casuarina, in the shape of a deep niche, and erect them as petpendicularly as they 
can, thereby to facilitate the dripping off of the rain. In those parts of the country where they 
haye gum-trees (Eucalypti) they peel off the bark, and fix it so well together as to make the roof 
quite waterproof! In f^ont of these huts they always bum a fire during the night for warming 
their feet; and in the cold weather eyeiy one lies between a small heap of burning coals in front and 
at the back, for keeping warm the upper part of the body. As the slightest motion must bring 
them into contact with these burning coals, it naturally occurs that they at times seriously bum 
themselyes.*' — C WHhelmi, 

Collins saw on the sea-coast huts formed of pieces of bark fW>m seyeral trees, ^ut together in 
the form of an oyen, with an entrance, and large enough to hold six or eight persons. Their fire 
was always at the mouth of the hut, rather within than without. Those liying in the bush, at some 
distance from the coast, contented themselyes with, for each, a sheet of bark, bent in the middle 
and placed on its two ends on the ground. — New South Wales, Collins, p. 860. 

Shortly after the Europeans came to occupy Victoria the natiyes ceased to build huts, and they 
no longer assembled in yiUages. The inducements to plunder, their fear of the inyaders, the 
depression caused by the appearance of a race possessing appliances so much superior to any known 
to them, and the impossibility of preserying inyiolate the lands which their people had held for 
ages, caused them to wander aimlessly from place to place, and to seek shelter and find refuge in 
the more adyantageous localities belonging to tribes to a certain extent remoyed at that time from 
the influences of the white men — localities which, before they met the whites, they would neyer 
haye been permitted to enter except as guests or as conquerors. 


have rights as well as duties ; and the goyemment of a tribe might well serve as 
a model to peoples claiming to be civilized but more inclined to vices than the 

Each miam is placed under the control of the head of a family ; whose duty 
it is to keep order and settle any differences that may arise between the members 
of the household or with those of any neighbouring miam. If any man is 
jealous, and charges another with having paid unnecessary attentions to his wife 
or his daughters, the head-man investigates the matter. Those who are impli- 
cated become much excited, and not unfrequently come to blows, and a fight 
follows. Under such circumstances, the head-man has to act judicially and 
executively. He determines who is in fault, and he chastises him. The quarrel, 
however noisy and violent, calls forth no interference from the inhabitants of the 
neighbouring miams. They stare at the men and women who are quarrelling, 
and they whisper and talk ; but even when two or three are fighting, and with 
dangerous weapons, they never attempt to interrupt the proceedings. The 
business of controlling the fight, it is well understood, belongs to the head- 
man, and whatever he does is right. He stands by with his Leonile and 
Mulga, ready to ward or to strike, and he seldom fails to preserve that just 
mean between too slight punishment and revengeAil injury which is not 
enough considered amongst Europeans when disputes and crimes have to be 
dealt with.* 

* The mode in which offences are dealt with by the natiyes is highly interesting. 

Mr. Samnel Qason says that the natires of Cooper's Creek do not pnnish their children for 
committing thef t» bnt the father or mother has to fight with the person from whom the property 
was stolen ; and npon no occasion are the children beaten. 

Should any natire steal from another, or should one accuse another wrongfully of any offence, 
the injured person challenges the wrongdoer, and a fight settles the difficulty. 

If two or more men fight, and one of the number be accidentally killed, he who caused his 
death must also suffer death. But should the offender baye an elder brother, then he must die in 
his place ; if he have no elder brother, his father must be his substitute ; but in case he has no male 
relatiye to suffer for him, he himself must die. He is not allowed to defend himself, nor indeed is 
he informed of the time when sentence will be executed. On some night appointed, an armed party 
surround and despatch him. Two sticks, each about six inches in length— one representing the 
killed and the other the person executed — ^are then buried, and upon no occasion is the circumstance 
afterwards referred to. 

In the year 1869 I sent a memorandum to the gentlemen in charge of Aboriginal Stations in 
Victoria, asking them, amongst other things, how lying and other like offences are dealt with by 
the natiyes, and I receiyed much interesting information on the subject. 

The Key. John Bulmer, of Lake Tyers, Gippsland, states that the blacks would only hurt a 
man for telling a lie if the lie were told to hurt another black ; but they would take no notice of a 
simple lie. A black in giying an account of an expedition would generally speak the truth ; only 
some would not ; but the blacks haye a good idea as to whom they may trust in this respect. As 
to their mode of punishment, they have no authorized method ; if a man became obnoxious to 
certain members of the tribe, they would quietly steal upon him and kill him. When a black has 
committed himself, he will, what is called, stand out before those he has offended, so that they may 
have their reyenge Blacks neyer like a quarrel to be of long standing : they do not like to bear 
a cri'uclge ; nothing would make a man more miserable than to think that some of his tribe had a 
'*down" on him. He would rather take a good thrashing than liye in such a state. This is partly 
owing to the practice which is yery common among blacks of bewitching any one who has offended 
them. This they would do by getting a piece of hair or something belonging to the person they 



It is difficult to convey an accurate notion of the domestic affairs of the 
Australian black. I have endeavoured to give a description of an encamp- 
menty but necessarily there are many details connected with the arrangements 
of each hut, the duties devolving on the male parent, the work that the women 
have to perform, and the education of the young savages, which must be dealt 
with elsewhere. 

The Rev. Mr. Bulmer, a Missionary in Gippsland, writes thus in a letter to 
me: — 

" The life of an Aboriginal was one of trouble. He lived in dread of his 
enemies. Sometimes he was not able to keep a fire in his camp lest it should 
light some secret foe to his place of shelter. At other times he himself would 
have some wrong to redress, and would then act on the offensive, and strive to 
kill some one for some fancied injury. Sometimes their camps were surprised 
while the men were away hunting. The hunters would return to find most of 
the women who happened to be at home murdered, and some of the younger 
ones taken away to be wives for their enemies. Thus they had often real 
grievances to avenge, but their complaints were more often fancied. Should a 
member of their tribe die suddenly, or even by gradual decay, they would 
charge some one with the crime, and would seek to have the death avenged. 
On these occasions they generally went away from their camp ftilly armed and 
liberally daubed with red-ochre or pipeclay, and if they chanced to fall upon 
some unfortunate member of the tribe amongst whom the obnoxious person 
was supposed to dwell, they would at once despatch him, and have a cannibal 
feast, usually satisfying themselves by eating his skin. In their domestic life 
everything was as simple as possible. They had no cooking utensils : all they 
required was fire to roast with. They would have a wooden vessel to hold 
water for drinking, but as they never washed their faces, they did not require 
an extra basin for that purpose. They had also a large grass bag for holding 
food, &c. The man had a small grass bag in which to keep his private effects. 
A look into such a bag would be interesting to a lover of the curious. First, 
there would be several pieces of round stones, which he would tell you are 

wish to enchant, so that when a black thinki or knows that his hair has been stolen, he is in 
misery until it is restored again. This is one great reason why the blacks do not like to hare 

The Rer. Mr. Hartmann, late of Lake Hindmarsh, eajn that the blacks had no particular lAo^ 
of punishing deception or lying. One found guiltj of such offences was generally warned by the 
chief, and if he persisted in his eyil courses, the matter was settled by a fight. The stronger the 
black, the more likely he would be to stand his ground. The blacks usually chose for messengers 
and to send on expeditions such men as they could trust, and men who could talk well. Whaterer 
report they brought back was generally belieyed. 

Mr. Qreen, of Coranderrk (Yarra Tarra Birer), informs me that, for bringing a false report 
from another tribe to his own tribe, a man was for the first offence well beaten with the waddy ; 
for the second speared in the thigh ; and for the third he might be killed. For seduction and for 
fornication with any young woman in his own tribe, the punishment was for the man death, and for 
the woman a spear in the thigh. 

The Bey. F. A. Hagenauer writes thus: — ^''The Aborigines punished in their wild state aU 
deception and lying by open fight. If children did it, their parents had to stand and fight for it. 
The blacks always gaye quite correct reports of their expeditions, and do so to the present day." 


Boolk. He would look very serious if you touched these, and he would not 
fail to inform you that you might die at once if you touched them. They are 
his instruments of sorcery. With them he makes any of his enemies sick. 
There is also something very careftilly wrapped up with bark and well painted 
with red-ochre. He might hesitate to tell you what this is : it is the fat of 
some one whom he has killed. There are also several knick-knacks in his bag 
which show that he has an eye to business. A glance into the large grass bag 
of his wife proves that she attends to the provisions. There are a few roots — 
some KdtrooTt (fruit of the pig-face), the leg of a native bear {Koala or Goola)^ 
and the head of a kangaroo. There are also a few opossum skins, for she is 
busy making a rug {Marook)^ a few shells which are used in marking the skins, 
and the end of the tail of an opossum, to which are attached the sinews of the 
tail. These are used for sewing the rug. Perhaps mixed up with these may 
be seen the hands of some defunct member of the tribe — that of some jfriend of 
the woman's, or perhaps one belonging to a former husband. This she keeps as 
the only remembrance of one she once loved — and, though years may have passed, 
even now, when she has nothing else to do, she will sit and moan over this relic 
of himianity. Sometimes a mother will carry about with her the remains of a 
beloved child, whose death she mourns. What cares she that it is in a state of 
decay! She cannot forget the love she bore it, and being without hope of 
seeing it in a future state, she clings to its decaying body-^until at length, 
becoming too loathsome even for her, ahe is obliged to put it out of sight. As 
to their dead — ^whether infants or adults— they usually keep them long after 
the proper time. It is a pity that men in a savage state should take delight in 
doing that which is nasty. But such is the fact. It is a very common custom 
for the tribe, or that portion of it who are related to one who has died, to rub 
themselves with the moisture that comes from the dead friend. They rub 
themselves with it until the whole of them have the same smell as the corpse. 
The writer will never forget his attending the fUlieral of a young man who had 
been kept much too long. As he stood on the grave, trying to improve the 
occasion, he was disgusted with the sickly smell which aU had ; and even for 
days after, when he came near one of the blacks, he was assailed with the same 
disagreeable odour." * 

There is a very amusing and truthful description of a native family given 
by Grey. Speaking of the people of Western Australia, he aays x— ^ 

" The natives nearly always carry the whole of their worldly property about 
with them, and the Australian hunter is thus equipped : — -Hound his middle is 

* ** While dead bodies were being thna dried, il was Tery irjing to oneVi stomach to have 
dirine worship on Sabbaths. We had to hare it in onr own house. The littlQ room wonld be 
crammed with some forty or fifty blacks. They crowded the room as frili as it would pack, and 
thronged about the open door and window. As they had been liying and sleeping in the wurley 
with a putrefying body, the smell seemed to hare been absorbed 1^ tl^eir skins, and the odour 
which arose from my congregation was excessiyely unpleasant/' — Th§ Narrk^/eri, by the Rer. Geo. 
Taplin, p. 56. 

This custom is probably restricted to certain districts. In many parts the body of the deceased 
is not touched with the naked hand, nor is any part aUowed to come into contact with the bodies of 
the liring. 


wound, in many folds, a^ cord spnn from the fur of the opossnm, which forms a 
warm, soft, and elastic belt of an inch in thickness, in which are stuck his 
hatchet, his kiley or boomerang, and a short heavy stick to throw at the 
smaller animals. His hatchet is so ingeniously placed that the head of it 
rests exactly on the centre of his back, whilst its thin short handle descends 
along the back-bone. In his hand he carries his throwing-stick and several 
spears, headed in two or three different manners, so that they are equally 
adapted to war or the chase. A warm kangaroo-skin cloak completes his 
equipment in the southern portions of the continent ; but I have never seen a 
native with a cloak anywhere to the north of 29® 8. lat. These weapons, 
apparently so simple, are admirably adapted for the purposes they are intended 
to serve — ^the spear, when projected from the throwing-stick, forms as effectual 
a weapon as the bow and arrow, whilst at the same time it is much less liable 
to be injured, and it possesses over the bow and arrow the advantage of being 
useful to poke out kangaroo rats and opossums from hollow trees, to knock off 
gum from high branches, to pull down cones from the Banksia trees, and for 
many other purposes. The hatchet is used to cut up the larger kinds of game, 
and to make holes in the trees the owner is about to climb. The kiley is 
thrown into flights of wild-fowl and cockatoos, and with the Doro-ttJty a short 
heavy stick, they knock over the smaller kinds of game much in the same 
manner that poachers do hares and rabbits in England. Thus equipped, the 
father of the family stalks forth, and at a respectfrd distance behind him follow 
the women ; a long stick, the point of which has been hardened in the fire, 
is in each of their hands, a child or two fixed in their bags or upon their 
shoulders, and in the deep recesses of these mysterious bags they carry, more- 
over, sundry articles which constitute the wealth of the Australian savage — 
these are, however, worthy of a particular enumeration, as this will make plain 
the domestic economy of one of these barbarian housewives. The contents of 
a native woman's bag are : — ^A flat stone to pound roots with ; earth to mix 
with the pounded roots ; quartz for the purpose of making spears and knives ; 
stones for hatchets; prepared cakes of gum to make and mend weapons 
and implements ; kangaroo sinews to make spears and to sew with ; needles 
made of the shin-bones of kangaroos, with which they sew their cloaks^ 
bags, &c.; opossum hair to be spun into waist-belts; shavings of kangaroo 
skins to polish spears, &c.; the shell of a species of mussel to cut hair, &c., 
with ; native knives ; a native hatchet ; pipeclay ; red-ochre, or burnt clay ; 
yellow-ochre ; a piece of paper-bark to carry water in ; waist-bands and spare 
ornaments ; pieces of quartz which the native doctors have extracted from their 
patients, and thus cured them of diseases : these they preserve as carefrilly 
as Europeans do relics. Banksia cones (small ones), or pieces of a dry white 
species of fungus, to kindle fire with rapidly, and to convey it from place to 
place ; grease, if they can procure it from a whale, or from any other source ; 
the spare weapons of their husbands, or the pieces of wood from which these 
are to be manufactured; the roots, Ac, which they have collected during the 
day. Skins not yet prepared for cloaks are generally carried between the bag 
and the back, so as to form a sort of cushion for the bag to rest on. In 


general; each woman carries a lighted fire-stick or brand under her cloak and 
in her hand." * 

"When a tribe is encamped, it is not permitted to any other tribe to approach 
the camp without warning. Bent on revenge, or with an intent to murder, or 
for the purpose of stealing a young woman, a warrior will sometimes invade a 
camp in the night and seek to effect his purpose, but such enterprizes are not 
of very common occurrence. Whether for friendly intercourse or for war, the 
tribe which seeks a meeting must give notice of its coming in due form. A 
messenger ( PFi^«r-^arr), whose duty it is to proceed to the camp and state the 
intentions of the visitors, or to invite them to come to the camp of his tribe, is 
formally appointed by the principal man of the tribe, assisted by the old men 
in council. The young men are not allowed, under any circumstances, to take 
part in such deliberations as may be preliminary to so important a matter as a 
visit to or the reception of another tribe. On very solemn occasions two 
ambassadors or messengers are appointed ; ordinarily, only one. The messenger 
has to carry a token, by virtue of which he passes safely through the lands of 
the several tribes.f The token is a piece of wood, eight or ten inches in length, 
sometimes round and sometimes flat, and seldom more than one inch in thick- 
ness. On it are inscribed hieroglyphics which can be read and interpreted, and 
which notify all persons of the nature of the mission. If the mission is a friendly 
one, the stick is streaked mostly with red-ochre (Werrup); but if unfriendly, or 
for the purpose of demanding satisfaction for injuries done, or for war, then it 
is mostly streaked with white-ochre (Ngarrimiul). The principal man, in 
putting this stick into the hands of the messenger, and having named the tribe 
for which the invitation is intended, says, "You hold this now" {Koong^ak kiriee 
Mirrambinerr). "Look out and find plenty of blackfellows" {Yane^wat benjer 
oonee koleri). "You tell all blackfellows to come here" (Toombooni boole-anin 
kolenr-yan-an niool or Tom^buk U-^mar-ko Kaolin Ner-lin-go). 

The messenger, on approaching the camp of the tribe to which he has to 
deliver his message, does not at once break in upon their privacy. He sits 
down at a considerable distance from the camp, but usually within sight of it, 
and makes a very small fire of bark and twigs for the purpose of indicating his 
presence by the smoke. After the lapse of a quarter of an hour, one of the 
aged blacks approaches him, carrying in his hand a fire-stick, or a piece of 
thick bark ignited at one end. The messenger presents his token to the old 
man, who scans it and orders his conduct accordingly. Some hours after, if the 
messenger has announced visitors, the members of his tribe arrive, and, if they 
are friendly, there is a corrobboree at night. If the purpose is war, the 
messenger has to hold a debate with the old men of the tribe, which sometimes 
lasts far into the night. 

However unpleasant the tidings may be, the persons of the messengers are 
held sacred, and they are always patientiiy heard and hospitably treated. If the 
message is of such a kind as to require an answer, the answer is given, and the 
bearer is conducted safely to the boundaries of the district he has invaded. 

♦ North-West and Western Auatralia, vol. ii., pp. 265-^. 

t The message-Bticks u^^d by the natiTes are described in another part of this work. 


The visitors nsoally so time their steps as to arrive at the camp some two or 
three hours before sunset. When the principal man gives warning, they all sit 
down, and they remain quiet for the space of half an hour or more. The 
influential Aborigines irom each tribe then approach and confer respecting the 
business to be transacted. If it is a friendly visit, or for the purpose of 
procuring wives, or for arranging plans of any kind likely to be mutually 
beneficial, they enter the camp, and everywhere are heard kindly greetings, 
lamentations for those departed since they last met, and enquiries respecting 
relatives and others. The visitors immediately after form an encampment at 
some little distance from their friends. 

When, in accordance with some arrangements suggested by the old men of 
the tribes, and approved by the warriors, a strange tribe is invited to come into 
a district which they have not previously visited, there are some practices to be 
observed, the omission of which might lead to quarrels. The strangers are 
preceded and introduced by members of some tribe having relations both with 
the strangers and with the tribe that is about to receive them. The duty of 
those who have to introduce the strangers is something like that which devolves 
on a master of ceremonies. Both parties must be consulted by them, and their 
wishes ascertained, before any attempt is made to bring the tribes together. 
The responsibility of the introduction, to a great extent, rests on the members 
of the intermediate tribe. If all difficulties be removed, the strange tribe is 
permitted to approach the camp — ^the metropolis of what to them is a new 

The strangers carry lighted bark or burning sticks in their hands, for the 
purpose, they say, of clearing and purifying the air. Their entertainers make 
them welcome, first to the forest lands of which they are the owners ; then to 
the trees, from which they cut boughs and present them to their visitors ; then 
to the shrubs, of which they gather bundles and offer to them ; and then to the 
grass and the herbs, which are freely spread before them ; and the boughs and 
the branches and the leaves and the grass are symbols of friendship which are 
well understood by all— .the givers and the receivers. 

To each family is appropriated a separate seat, which is usually a dead 
prostrate tree. At one end sits the head of the fiunily, with his sons next to 
him in the order of their birth ; at the other, his principal wife, with the other 
wives and the female children. Two fires are made, one at each end of the log, 
and at these the males and the females warm themselves and cook their food 
without interference with each other. 

During the first day the visitors are not permitted to minister to their own 
wants in any way. A male amongst the entertainers fills a Tarnuk with water, 
and carries it to the head of the family, and, looking at him fixedly, stirs the 
water with a reed or a twig, and takes a deep draught of it, thus satisfying him 
that it is good, and then leaves it for the use of him and his sons. A female 
does the same office for the strange wives and the female children. 

Food, consisting of all the varieties which the country affords, is laid before 
the guests. They cany to them the kangaroo, the opossum, the bandicoot, and 
the bear, birds of several kinds, fish and eels, and the native bread and gum. 


Daring the performance of all these duties silence prevails. There is no loud 
talk or cries or shouts such as are heard ordinarily in camp. The very aged 
guests^ male and female, occasionally weep copiously^ and exhibit by their tears 
and their gestures gratitude for the attentions shown them ; but the younger 
members of the strange tribe simply staxe and wonder. 

When night falls, tibie strangers find that miams have been prepared for them. 
Each family has one, and one is set apart for the young unmarried men. 
Silence prevails throughout the night, and it would be a breach of etiquette to 
indulge in the usual squabbles which serve under ordinary circumstances to 
relieve the tedium of the night in an encampment. 

The duties performed and the ceremonies used in receiving and attending to 
the wants of a strange tribe have meanings quite intelligible to the Aborigines. 
When they welcome the strangers to the forest lands they signify that as loog 
as they are friendly, and under such restrictions as their laws impose, they and 
their children may come there again without fear of molestation ; the presents 
of boughs and leaves and grass are meant to show that these are theirs when 
they like to use them ; and the water stirred with a reed is understood as a 
token that they may thereafter drink of it, and that no hostile spear will be 
raised against them. 

The Aborigines have many rather peculiar ways of welcoming their firiends 
when they arrive at an encampment after a long absence. The women usually 
cry with joy, and the men make a howling noise xmtil the visitors actually 
appear. Strangers and visitors have various means of making known their 
approach to a camp. Sometimes they raise a singular cry. When the cry is 
heard by those in the camp, they know that a stranger or a visitor' is approach- 
ing, and at once they begin to shout, and the shouting and noise are continued 
until the face of the visitor is seen and recognised. Strangers do not walk 
straight into a camp ; some ceremony is observed. They sit down at a CTeat 
distence from the pLe where the trL is stationed, and remain there qSuy 
until they are noticed. Sometimes they sit a long time before any one goes to 
them. If one from the tribe goes to the strangers and welcomes them, they 
then approach, and all kinds of civilities are paid to them by the men and 
women. Buckley says that when he first encountered a tribe of Aborigines the 
natives invariably struck their breasts and his also, making a noise between 
singing and crying-a sort of whine. 

Sir Thomas Mitchell observed that when strange blacks met, the men did not 
at once begin to converse with each other ; but there did not appear to be any 
such restraint on the women, who entered freely into conversation without check 
or rebuke. Piper — Sir Thomas's black follower — on one occasion encountered a 
strange native, and in vain was he entreated to ask a question of the unknown 
traveller ; both stood facing each other for a quarter of an hour. They stood 
about eight yards apart, neither looking at the other, and only gradually and 
slowly did they at last enter into conversation. The female native was in the 
beginning the intermediate channel of communication. 

The mode of receiving a stranger in the Cooper's Creek district is thus 
described by Mr. Qason : — " A native of influence, on arriving at one of the 


camps of his own tribe, is usually received in the following manner : — On ap- 
proaching the camp, the inmates close in with raised arms, as in defence ; upon 
this, the person of note rushes at them, making a faint blow as if to strike 
them, they warding it off with their shields ; immediately after, they embrace 
him and lead him into the camp, where the women shortly bring him food. 
Should any female relatives to him be present, they cry with joy. If he visits 
a neighbouring tribe, he is received in the same manner as by his own. A 
native of no influence or note, on returning after considerable absence, takes his 
seat near the camp without passing any remark. After remaining a few minutes 
as if dumb, the old men close round him, ask where he came from, and what 
befel him, when he tells them plenty of news, not forgetting to embellish. Then 
two old men stand up, one retailing it, and the other repeating the sentences in 
an excited manner. Upon this, as on all other occasions, the new-comer is 
hospitably received, plenty to eat being furnished him." * 

The practice of these ceremonies, as here narrated, will cause surprise in the 
minds of those who have been accustomed to regard the Australian blacks as 
little above the beasts that perish. 

The account given by the late Mr. Thomas of a great gathering of Aborigines 
at the Merri Creek, near its junction with the Eiver Yarra Yarra, when a very 
old man appeared as a guest, is somewhat curious. More than one hundred and 
fifty Aborigines came from the country which lies to the north-west of Gippsland 
and north-east of the Delatite River, and assembled at the camp of the Yarra 
tribe, and they brought with them an aged head-man named Kut-ler-kul-lup. 
He was supposed to be more than eighty years of age. He was at least six feet 
in height, fat, and with a fine upright carriage. His forehead was corrugated ; 
the fine horizontal wrinkles looked scarcely natural ; it seemed as if a native 
artist had been at work on his countenance ; and his cheeks too were finely and 
strangely wrinkled. His friends — ^indeed, all who saw him — ^paid respect to him. 
They embarrassed and encumbered him with their attentions. He could not 
stir without an effort being made by some one to divine his wishes. At sunrise, 
the adult Aborigines — strangers and guests — sat before him in semicircular 
rows, patiently waiting for the sound of his voice, or the indication by gesture 
of his inclinations. None presumed to speak but in a low whisper in his pre- 
sence. The old man, touched by so much fealty and respect, occasionally 
harangued the people — ^telling them, probably, something of their past history, 
and warning them, not unlikely, of the evils which would soon surround them. 
Whenever Mr. Thomas approached for the purpose of gathering some hints of 
the character of his discourse, the old man paused, and did not resume his 
argument until the white listener had departed. Mr. Thomas endeavoured 
through the chief-man — Billi-billari — of the Yarra tribe, to gain some informa- 
tion touching the nature and substance of these long speeches, but though he 
succeeded in gaining a seat amongst the adult Aborigines, Kul-ler-kul-lup 
would not deliver a speech in his presence. Whatever the old man suggested 
as proper to be done was done ; what he disliked was looked upon with disgust 

• The Dieyerie Tribes pp. 14-15. 


by all the men of all the assembled tribes ; what he liked best was by all 
* regarded as good. And he did not approve of the attempts of the white man 
to hear his discourses, and care was taken accordingly to prevent him from 
learning anything relating to them. But when KuUler-kuUlup and his people 
went away, Mr. Thomas ascertained from Billi-billari that the old man had 
come from a tribe inhabiting the Australian Alps (probably the north-western 
slopes), which was not in any way connected with any of the Gippsland tribes, 
and which had never had intercourse with any Gippsland people. He said that 
Kulrler-kul-lup had informed them that there was a race living in the Alps who 
inhabited only the rocky parts, and had their homes in caves ; that this people 
rarely left their haunts but when severely pressed by hunger, and mostly clung 
closely to their cave-dweUings ; that to this people the Australians were in- 
debted for corrobborees ; that corrobborees were conveyed by dreams to Kul-ler^ 
kul-lup*s people and other Australians ; and that the men of the caves and 
rocks were altogether superior to the ordinary Aboriginal. 

It is probable that Billi-billari gave a truthful account of Kul^ler-kul-lup's 
statements. It is more than probable that the Australians have always had a 
belief in the existence of races both superior and inferior to their own ; and it 
is certain that the accidental intrusion of members of distant and strange tribes, 
acquainted with modes of fighting and decoration somewhat different from their 
own, must always have been regarded as proofs of the existence of peoples 
different from them. K easily taken and killed, such intruders would be 
regarded as inferior; if superior in skill, and greater in daring, and able to 
put to flight the warriors, then the visitors would be regarded as superiors. In 
the latter case, the adoption of any other hypothesis would have cast a slur on 
the fighting-men. 

The Aborigines everywhere, and on all occasions, pay great respect to old 
persons. If a number of strangers are going to a camp, the oldest man walks 
first, and the younger men foUow. Amongst the Murray blacks it is considered 
a very great fault to say anything disrespectful to an old person. It is deemed 
a serious thing to say, Kur-(hpi ther-a^ka wirto (you grey-haired old man !). It 
is only when a young man is very much enraged that he will venture to use 
such words ; and if used, the consequences are sometimes serious. 

" Eespect for old age," says Sir Thomas Mitchell, " is universal amongst the 
Aborigines. Old men, and even old women, exercise great authority among 
assembled tribes, and ^ rule the big war' with their voices when both spears and 
boomerangs are at hand." * 

In the country occupied by the Dieyerie tribe (Cooper's Creek) the old men 
direct the movements of the people. " Should any matter of moment have to 
be considered — such as removing the camps, making of rain, marrying, circum- 
cision, or what not — one of the old men moots the subject late at night, before 
the camp retires to rest. At dawn of the succeeding day, each question, as 
proposed by the old man, is answered at once, or, should they wait untU he 
has finished, three or four speak together ; with this exception, there being no 

* InUrior qf Ecutem Australia, yoL n., p. 8d9« 



intermptions^ and stillness prevailing in the camp. At first they speak slowly 
and quietly, each sentence in its delivery occupying three or four minutes, 
but generally become excited before the conclusion of their speeches." * 

On all occasions, when I have seen a number of blacks gathered together, 
they have shown the utmost affection to the aged persons amongst them. It 
has always been regarded by the principal men as a privilege to introduce to me 
the very old men and old women, and I have observed with pleasure the tokens 
of respect and regard exhibited whenever the old people spoke. When in the 
Western district many years ago, the natives brought to me, carrying her as 
carefully as a mother would carry her child, the principal woman of the Colac 
tribe. She was very feeble, and probably very old — how old it would be im- 
possible to guess. They evidently looked upon her as one deserving of all care 
and affection, and seemed very proud of her. 

It is pleasant, too, to note how quiet the people are when an old and 
respected black is speaking to them. They never interrupt him. He begins 
very slowly, uttering a few words at a time, and the sounds are soft and 
pleasing. He makes a long pause, and drops his voice as he concludes a 
sentence. Then, as he warms to his work, his eyelids quiver, he speaks more 
rapidly, always pausing at the conclusion of a sentence, and soon his sentences 
become longer, his voice a little louder, and he emphasizes a word now and 
again in a very impressive manner. He ends abruptly, and sits down. When, 
however, a man who is not much esteemed essays a speech, he is interrupted by 
both men and women. All of them talk together, and, though he may raise his 
voice, he is soon silenced by the clamor of the throng. In many things the 
blacks are very like the whites. 

The natives are ^^good haters," and they have, as good haters should have, 
the greatest love for their friends and relatives. They testify the liveliest joy 
when a companion after a long absence returns to the camp. When a young 
man — a warrior — departs on an expedition as a messenger, tears are shed by the 
old people, and the leave-taking is quite a solemnity. When a near relation, or 
a dear friend, or any distinguished fighting-man is removed by death, they 
testify their sorrow in the same way as the people of the Eastern nations of 
antiquity did when overwhelmed with a great affliction or compelled by custom 
to appear to be in deep grief. 

Men show strong affection towards each other ; they love their wives ; 
women are faithftd, and die on the graves of their husbands ; and indeed it 
would not be without labor to find amongst civilized races more touching 
instances of affection than those that can be related of the Aborigines of 

The late Mr. Thomas has given an account in his writings, prepared at my 
request, of the behaviour of the natives of Victoria under very painful circum- 
stances : — 

Bun-ger-ringj an old Mount Macedon black, of a great family, of whose 
exploits he would often speak, had four wives. One day he came to the 

* Samuel Gason, p. 14. 


encampment accompanied by the youngest of his wives^ and both Bufinger-ring 
and this woman were sick and feeble. They had caught cold, and were suffering 
from low fever. Mr. Thomas got medical aid, and the young woman recovered, 
but old Bunnger-ring died. At the ftmeral the young widow was inconsolable. 
She burnt and mutilated herself very much. She mourned Bunr^er^ring^s death 
for many days, refused food, and sat daily and nightly moaning plaintively. She 
stated boldly that she would starve herself to death and follow Bun^ger-ring ; 
and sixteen days after his death she too was buried. The wife of Ning^er-rar- 
noul, of the Western Port tribe, sickened and died when her husband was taken 
away from her. She survived him but a few days. King Benbow, well known 
in Melbourne in 1848, whose wife was with him always, and was always 
clinging fondly to him, literally ^ied on his grave, from which she could not be 
got away. Native men have shown the same great grief when their wives have 
been removed by death. A great man of the Yarra tribe, whose wife died at 
the foot of Mount Disappointment, was so much afflicted that he too died two 
days after, and was buried in the same grave with her. 

As an instance of the strong affection which men show towards each other, 
when trouble and affliction overtake them, and when they have jointly to share 
the burden, Mr. Thomas has recorded the case of two Portland Bay blacks, who 
were imprisoned in the gaol in Melbourne many years ago. Up to the time of 
their imprisonment they kept together, and clung to each other as newly-caught 
wild animals are seen to keep together when caged. During the period they 
were in gcu^l one of them fell sick, and was separated from his companion, and 
finally he died. When Mr. Thomas communicated the tidings to the friend of 
the deceased, he, though apparently in good health, felt the stroke so keenly 
that he too sickened and died almost immediately. His body, cold and stiff, 
was found in his cell the morning after he had received the tidings. 

A number of cases of the like kind could be given : but enough has been 
adduced to show that the Australian — in his domestic relations ; in his dealings 
with friends; in his intercourse with strangers; in his ceremonious recep- 
tion of ambassadors ; in his sorrows ; in his lamentations for relatives departed ; 
in his strong affections, as well as in his hatreds — ^is altogether like ourselves, 
when we are on our best behaviour, and not .grimacing and attitudinizing, and 
making a pretence of sorrow when there is no grief, and simulating joy when 
there is no real cause for rejoicing. The Aboriginal is indeed usually very sorry 
when he exhibits any tokens of sorrow ; and he is glad, beyond anything he can 
himself exhibit of gladness, when there is occasion for the expression of such a 
feeling. In this he is childish ; but it must be remembered that he has not 
had eighteen hundred years of civilization, and is still in the state he was 

Life nuRma the Four Seasons. 

The tract of land owned by each tribe was well known to every member ; as 
well known and as accurately defined as if the metes and bounds of it had been 
set out by a surveyor. In most cases the area was very large, and presented 
different aspects during the several seasons of the year. In the months of June, 


July, and August — ^the winter season of the year — ^the flats near the rivers and 
creeks were often flooded ; and the low lands generally were wet and cold, and 
unsuitable for camping ground ; and necessarily the natives moved to the best 
sheltered spots on the uplands, where they were able to catch native bears, walla- 
bies, and wombats — and on these and on the pupad of the ant, and on the grubs 
that are found in the trees, they chiefly supported themselves. In wet and very 
cold weather they were often miserable. When the rain fell heavily — ^perhaps for 
many days — ^the men kept sulkily to their willams, and no inducement would 
lead them to hunt game in the forests. The aspect of a camp at such times was 
dismal in the extreme. The fires were maintained, it is true ; but the dripping 
trees, the wet grass, the rain pouring heavily on the bark of the miams, and 
penetrating them ; the absence of children before the openings of the dwellings, 
and the forlorn appearance of the dogs moving occasionally from miam to miam, 
in search of better accommodation — ^made a picture only to be equalled by those 
that are familiar to the English people in the quarters of the cities and in the 
districts inhabited by the poorest and most neglected of the inhabitants. In the 
wet season the natives were undoubtedly unhappy — often starved — and never in 
a condition to indulge in mirth or amusements. 

In the spring — during the months of September, October, and November — 
when the acacias blossom, and the watercourses in many places are resplendent 
with the rich yellow flowers of these trees; when the birds mate; when the cold- 
ness of winter is almost past, and only rarely, in exceptional periods, snow is 
seen or hail falls ; when the first hot breath of the north wind makes itself felt 
in the spring — ^the natives moved slowly towards the lower lands. There they 
were able to snare ducks, to catch other kinds of wild-fowl, and, as the season 
advanced, to procure eggs from the nests of all kinds of birds. This was a time 
of rejoicing. They spent many hours in pleasant ramblings and in fishing and 
hunting when the moon was shining ; and as the earth renewed her strength, 
and nature sprinkled the sward with flowers, and filled the heath-clad downs 
and the scrub-covered hill-sides with rich colors of flowering shrubs, the natives, 
too, awakening from the torpor that the coldness of winter had induced, put 
forth their strength, and, active and lively, hunted regularly and feasted heartily 
on the good things that were easily procurable by their skill. They never killed 
any creature that was not in good condition if they could help it, and any that 
was poor or lean was thrown aside. They cooked only the best of the birds and 
beasts, as a rule; but when pressed by hunger, everything that was taken was 
eaten, unless it was something forbidden by the laws, and these no one dared 

During the summer season — ^in the months of December, January, and Febru- 
ary — ^when the temperature is very high, and the hot winds so scorching as 
sometimes to kill even indigenous trees ; when the ground is baked into a hard 
crust, and cracked and fissured in all places where a thin soil covers granite or 
basalt, and when the earth is dusty even to the very edge of the fast disappear- 
ing swamps; when the snakes are active, and bask in broad day in any ungrassed 
patch of ground ; when the small lizards dart to and fro, and the large iguanas 
slowly ascend their favorite trees for shelter or food ; when the native bear goes 


to sleep at mid-day in the open forest, or dozes stupidly on the branch of a tree; 
when the air is filled with the hum and whirr of innumerable insects ; when the 
fading flowers of the trees and shrubs begin to give place to the succeeding 
fruits ; when the grass is no longer green, and the streams even in the moun- 
tainous districts flow somewhat feebly — ^the natives resorted to the large rivers, 
and amused themselves and fed themselves by catching fish. They also hunted 
the kangaroo, and killed opossums and porcupines. Their vegetable food, in the 
Yarra district, was chiefly the heart of the fern-tree ; but roots and bulbs and 
fruits were gathered by the women and children in all places where these had 

In the summer time there was no lack of amusements. Hunting, fishing, 
fighting, and dancing — ^pursued in the day or night, as best suited their inclinar 
tions — ^were to them as exhilirating as any of the practices of civilized peoples, 
and many of them, perhaps it may be said, as innocent. 

The warmth of this season caused them to be careless, to a certain degree, of 
their wiUams ; and they often camped in small parties, in places remote from 
their accustomed haunts, where they never thought of providing shelter, unless 
when overtaken by a storm. 

When the hot winds ceased to blow — ^when the shelter of a bark willam was 
welcome, and the aspect of nature was no longer encouraging for such pursuits 
as they followed in the summer — the natives moved to the higher grounds 
belonging to them. The rains had wetted the green slopes formerly so delight- 
ful ; cold blasts came from the south-west ; and the autumn, bringing to them 
no rich harvests, no stores of com, suggested only the discomforts of the 
approaching winter. 

Their food at this season consisted of kangaroo, opossum, porcupine, and 
other animals, eels and various kinds of fish, and, of vegetables, the 
bulbous roots of plants growing in the marshes, fern-trees, and the gum of 
the wattle. 

They were always mindful of the seasons in selecting the localities in which 
to spend they* time, taking into account not only the natural features of the 
ground, but the &cilities for obtaining food. They constructed tolerably good 
bark willams in the winter, while in the summer they were content with such 
shelter as a few broken branches aflForded. They were rarely without good 

The Eev. Mr. Bulmer, of Lake Ty^rs, in Gippsland, in a letter to me, gives 
the following interesting account of the movements of the natives in the south- 
eastern part of Victoria during the several seasons. He says: — 

" In summer time their days were spent chiefly in fishing for eels and fat 
mullet {Pert-piang), They camped at the entrance to the Lakes, where they 
are plentiful at this season. They would find also in the gullies near the 
entrance plenty of Koonyang (kangaroo apples), and these, with the fish, 
would form their chief diet. Excepting when they desired a change of food, 
a day would be spent in going back into the bush for wallaby. The entrance to 
Reeves River has always been a very favorite camping ground, as food in the 


summer is very plentiftJ. In a wild state, a black did very little more, I 
think, than attend to the wants of his stomach. In summer his nights would 
be spent in getting eels or other fish, as at night they can be more easily taken. 
He would go into the shallow water with a torch and a spear ; the fish would 
be attracted by the light, and they would fall an easy prey to the spear. The 
natives are very skilful with the spear, seldom missing their stroke, but they 
use great caution in striking at the fish. The day was spent by the men in 
idleness, and in sleeping and eating. The women made bags of grass for 
themselves or their husbands, and sometimes, if a man could rouse himself, he 
would get up from his rug and employ himself in making a spear or some other 
instrument of use, and towards evening the torches would have to be made for 
the night's fishing. In winter the greater part of the time was occupied in 
hunting native bears, kangaroo, <&c. The long nights would be passed, if in 
good humour, in joking ; their great delight would be to hit off the peculiarities 
of some absent member of the tribe, or of some dead black who was no relation 
of any black present. If not in a good humour, they would find some griev- 
ance to redress ; or perhaps some refractory young man would rush into a camp 
to seize one of the young women, in order to give the parents a hint that that 
particular female ought to be given to him. This would cause a general fight, 
and the young man would get a good thrashing, and then, perhaps, the tribe, 
smitten with remorse for their conduct, would make atonement by giving up 
the lady to him. In spring their time was devoted to fishing, as the fish then 
begin to be plentiftd. The autumn was spent in visiting other tribes and 
getting up new corrobborees. Their food during this season was various, 
chiefiy opossums, bears, kangaroo, &c. 

"As to their shelter — in summer, in their temporary camps, a few boughs 
would suffice, as the nights were warm, and indeed, as they occupied themselves 
at night in fishing, they did not require much shelter. In case of wet they 
made a grass camp. In winter the camp was more substantial, as they 
remained longer in one locality at that season. It was thatched with grass 
or made of sheets of bark. In spring, as well as in summer, they lived much 
on vegetables and fruits. 

" In summer they fished mostly on the coast, or at the mouths of the rivers 
which run into the sea, as at this season the fish were either going to or return- 
ing from the sea. In winter they would more likely procure fish in the rivers 
with grass nets, and often with hooks of bone with a line made of the bark of 
the Yowan or lightwood. I believe they found the bone-hook as good for 
fishing as the hooks supplied by Europeans, though no doubt it would be very 
troublesome to make it, as it had to be scraped out with flint and shells. The 
time when they had most wild-fowl was and still is in the spring, when the 
birds are moulting. At this season they kill swans in large numbers. The 
wild-fowls they get principally are swans and ducks.* 

" I believe in their wild state the Aboriginals had more system, or worked 
more by a plan, than at present. As they had only themselves to rely upon, 

* The regetable pxodnctioiui eaten bj the natires are described in another part of this work. 


they took care to keep themselyes supplied with food each day.* Had a stranger 
come suddenly upon their camps, when the natives were in a wild state, at any 
time daring the day, he would have found them almost totally deserted. Had 
he inspected them, he would have found them inhabited by a few old people and 
children. But towards evening he would have observed blacks coming from all 
quarters, some laden with game, some with fish, and a few with a stick of 
firewood on their shoulders. . Each had been away seeking food and necessaries 
for the supply of the camp. In times of peace, when they had no fear of 
enemies lurking about, they would move from place to place without caution. 
The men would go in a mob to have a grand battue among the kangaroos, which 
would be done by a number of men driving the animals into some corner where 
they could spear them as the creatures tried to pass them. The women would 
also go away in large numbers in canoes to fish ; but they woald take care to 
return to the camp before the arrival of their husbands, in order to have the 
fires lighted and some of the produce of their day's labor roasted for the hunters. 
The appetite of their husbands would probably not be so keen as that of the 
hunters who are proverbially named when hunger is mentioned ; for, if successful 
in their day's sport, they would have made an astonishing meal long before 
reaching home. It is the custom of the blacks, when they catch a kangaroo, to 
roast and eat part of it on the spot. And here a remark may be made respecting 
the much talked of enormous eating of the blacks. This is accounted for by 
the way in which they live. As hunters, they would, at most, have a very 
precarious living, for sometimes they would be unsuccessful in their hunting, 
and their fishing would also fail. At such times they would have to allay 
hunger by eating some of the various vegetable productions which are common. 
The blacks are capable of enduring long fasts, and when they get food in 
abundance, they are very liable to exceed the usual limits ; but let an Aboriginal 
be fed regularly every day, and it soon becomes apparent that he eats just as 
much as is sufficient for him. In fact his appetite is not at all out of the 

* The natives are not io improrident as is generaUj supposed. They take great care of birds' 
nests, and thej sink wells, and protect the natural water-holes against the encroachments of 
animals. They cover the springs of water with stones and branches of trees ; and show, by 
burning off the grass and in many other ways, that it is their duty to make provision for their 
future wants. 

Mr. Charles Cozen writes thus : — " Much has been said of the imprudence of these poor 
creatures, and I do not intend to deny the general truth of such statements, but I believe that had 
we been better acquainted with their habits before the colonists came among them, we should give 
them credit for more thoughtfnlness than we now do. In corroborati<Hi of this opinion, I may 
inform you that, daring an exploration trip into the interior, made by me in 1836, I found a 
considerable store of grass-seed, gum from the mimosa, and other stores, carefully packed up in 
large bags made from the skin of the kangaroo, and covered over with pieces of bark, so as to keep 
them properly dry. The weight of the bags containing the grass-seed and gum was about one 
hundred pounds ; the seeds had been carefully dried after being collected from the smaU grasses of 
the plains. It is used as food after being ground into a kind of paste. The gum is also one of their 
favorite articles of consumption, and when made into a thick mucilage, and mixed with honey or 
sugar, is really very nice. Such instances of forethought are doubtless rare, and I believe are only 
to be found beyond the influence of civilization." — The Kommittarcy Tribe. A paper read before 
the Queensland Philosophical Society, 1666. 


"A huntsman's life," says Wilhelmi, "under any circumstances is a 
migratory one, but it becomes the more so in this country, where Nature's 
products are obtainable only according to the season, and in districts far off 
one from the other. On this account the Port Lincoln blacks are obliged at 
times to resort to the sea-coast for catching fish ; at others, to rove over hill 
and dale in pursuit of game and roots ; and during the unproductive months 
they are forced, for the smaller kinds of game, to roam through the whole 
country, some parts of which are covered with an almost impenetrable small 
scrub, and other parts complete deserts, all the time having to contend against 
a dreadful heat, rendered almost insupportable by the reflection of the rays of 
the sun and of the surrounding burning scrub, and being, in addition to all 

this, deprived of a sufficiency of water The habit of 

constantly changing their places of rest is so great that they cannot overcome 
it, even if staying where all their wants can be abundantly supplied. A certain 
longing to revisit this or that spot, for which they have taken a particular fancy, 
seizes them, and neither promises nor persuasion can induce them to resist it 
for any time ; only in time and by degrees is this feeling likely to give way. 
As they travel greater distances during the summer months than during winter^ 
they then also more frequently change their places of rest.' 



Though the land occupied by each tribe was the coromon property of the 
tribe, insomuch as they could hunt over it, kill the wild animals on it, and gather 
the fruits and roots and tubers growing within its area, there were some 
obscure personal rights of property. Members of the tribe, it is said, had lands 
which they called their own ; the right to such lands descended from generation 
to generation ; and these rights were respected by all, and jealously guarded by 
the proprietors. 

Grey says that " landed property does not belong to a tribe, or to several 
families, but to a single male ; and the limits of his property are so accurately 
defined, that every native knows those of his own land, and can point out the 
various objects which mark his boundary." 

And Dr. Lang, in a letter to Dr. Hodgkin, quoted by Grey, states that 
"particular districts are not merely the property of particular tribes ; particular 
sections, or portions of these districts, are universally recognised by the natives 
as the property of individual members of these tribes ; and when the owner of 
such a section, or portion of territory (as I ascertained was the case at King 
George's Island), has determined on burning off the grass on his land — which is 
done for the double purpose of enabling the natives to take the older animals 
more easily, and to provide a new crop of sweeter grass for the rising genera- 
tion of the forest — ^not only all the other individuals of his own tribe, but whole 
tribes from other districts, are invited to the hunting party, and the feast and 

* Manners and Custonu of the AuetraUan Natives, &c.y pp. 176-8. 


dance, or corrobboree that ensue; the wild animals on the ground being all 
considered the property of the owner of the land." * 

Mr. Gideon Lang asserts that the natives have also individual property in 
various trees. On one occasion, when exploring, and suffering severely from the 
want of food, and particularly the craving from the want of vegetables, his 
black guide pointed to a bee passing over them, loaded, and evidently in 
straight flight for the hive. Mr. Lang told the native to follow it, and he did 
so ; but when they reached the tree, the black had scarcely got ofT his horse 
when he remounted, as if to go on again. Mr. Lang asked the reason for his 
action, when he pointed to a mark on the tree, evidently made by a stone 
tomahawk, and said that it belonged to " N'other one blackfellow," and that he 
could not touch it — and at this time he was almost on the point of starvation, 
as well as the others of the party.f 

Eeference is made in the same place to the statement pf Sir Greorge Grey, 
that if two or more men have a right to hunt over the same portion of ground, 
and one of them breaks off the tops of certain trees, by their laws the grubs in 
these trees are his property, and no one has a right to touch the tree ; but 
Sir George here refers to the grass-trees, which, unless the top is broken or it 
naturally decays, is not a proper receptacle for the grubs which supply the 
natives with food. The man who took the trouble to break the tops of the grass- 
trees was surely entitled to gather the grubs ; but he acquired no right to the 
trees, and they could not, by his simply breaking the tops, become his property, 
as a huge gum-tree might, or a parcel of land.} 

The natives of the Darling had a mode of asserting their rights to the land 
they inhabited which seemed to surprise Major Mitchell. The " Spitting Tribe" 
caused the explorers to pour out the water from their buckets into a hole which 
they dug in the ground ; and when a river chief had a tomahawk presented to 
him, he pointed to the stream, and signified that the white men were at liberty 
to take water from it.§ 

This, however, was no more than the assertion by the principal man of 
tribal rights, and did not indicate any individual property in the waters or soil. 

Eyre aflSrms that every male has a piece of land which he can call his own, 
that he knows its boundaries and can point them out; that the father divides his 
lands amongst his sons, and that there is almost hereditary succession ; that a 
female never inherits, and that primogeniture has no peculiar rights or advan- 
tages ;|| and Grey adds that, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, a boy can point out 
the portion of land which he eventually is to inherit, and that if the male children 
of a family become extinct, the male children of the daughters inherit their 
grandfather's land. 

Lieut.-Col. Collins says, " Their spears and shields, their clubs and lines, Ac, 
are their own property ; they are manufactured by themselves, and are the whole 

♦ North- West and Western Australia, vol. ii., pp. 234-5. 

t Aborigines of Australia, by Gideon S. Lang, 1865, pp. 13-14. 

X Sir George Grey's account of this matter is yerj clear. See vol. ii., p. 289. 

§ Eastern Australia, toI. I., p. 305. 

II Eyre's Australia, vol. ii., p. 297. 



of their personal estate. But, strange as it may appear, they have also their 
real estates. Benr-nil-long gave repeated assurances that the island Me^mel 
(known at the settlement by the name of Goat Island), close by Sydney Cove, 
was his own property ; that it had been his father's, and that he should give it 
to By-gone, his particular friend and companion. To this little spot he appeared 
much attached. He likewise spoke of other persons who possessed this kind of 
hereditary property, which they retained undisturbed." * 

In Fraser's Island (Great Sandy Island) it is said that there are parts of 
the land which the natives look upon as individually theirs, and on the death of 
the father it descends to the sons. On the death of a mother, her property 
descends to her brother. 

This is strong evidence in favor of there being individual property in land 
amongst the Australians; but is it satisfactory? What rights, exclusive of those 
of other members of the tribe, were enjoyed by the proprietor ? What, in short, 
were his advantages? This personal property would naturally suggest the 
existence in each tribe of chieftainship; but nothing of the kind is known in 
Australia. The council of old men rule the affairs of the tribe. The principal 
man or principal men cannot act without their advice and approval. If they 
did act without authority, they might incur punishment. How could the sons of 
a daughter inherit? The people are not endogamous. A girl, it is true, is 
betrothed at an early age to a man not of her own class or to a man of another 
tribe with whom intermarriage is lawful ; but girls and women are exchanged, 
and are not seldom stolen by men of neighbouring tribes ; and, moreover, an 
old man has usually not one wife but several ; and how would the succession be 
settled ? 

It is not at all clear from the statements here quoted that there was any- 
where, in the ordinary sense of the n>ord, individual property in land. How, 
indeed, could it consist with the maintenance of tribal rights, the rules of 
hospitality, and the preservation of the common interests of the people ? 

The Rev. John Buhner informs me that the fact that an Aboriginal is born 
in a certain locality constitutes a right to that part, and it would be considered 
a breach of privilege for any one to hunt over it without his permission. 
Should another black have been bom in the same place, he, with the former, 
would have a joint right to the land. Otherwise, no native seems to have 
made a claim to any particular portion of the territory of his tribe. 
Mr. Bulmer says he has found this birthright common to the Murray 
tribes, and he suspects it is common to most of the tribes of Australia. 
In old times a fight would ensue if any one wilfully trespassed on the land 
thus acquired as a birthright. 

This is intelligible, and seems to accord with other customs of the natives. 

In any large area occupied by a tribe, where there was not much forest 
land, and where kangaroos were not numerous, it is highly probable that the 
several families composing the tribe would withdraw from their companions for 
short periods, at certain seasons, and betake themselves to separate portions ot 

* An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, 1804, p. 385. 


the ferea (always keeping within the boundaries of the district lawfully owned 
by the tribe), and it is more than probable — it is almost certain — ^that each head 
of a family would betake himself, if practicable, to that portion which his fether 
had frequented. In this manner — and where certain privileges were acquired 
in consequence of a native having been born in a locality that could be 
appropriated — individuals would claim a property in the land. There is nothing 
to be discovered in the records relating to the Aborigines of Victoria which 
would show such a proprietorship as would justify the statements made by Mr. 
Eyre. But he wrote of another part of the continent ; and it is scarcely to be 
believed that so accurate an observer — ^so conscientious and careful a historian — 
would be misled on such a point. 

This is a subject of great interest, and to the ethnologist of the highest 
importance ; and it is not to be dismissed by a reference to any authority, 
however high. One has to consider, in connection with it, the laws that govern 
the tribes, the habits of the people, and the accidents, amongst men in the 
savage state, which would necessarily interfere with, and, in fact, render im- 
possible anything in the nature of hereditary succession. And there are other 

If, when any man was called to account for a crime, he kept himself within 
the boundaries of his own land — ^how could he be brought to punishment? 
Not, if he were contumacious, without violating his rights as the proprietor of 
the soil. And in times of drought, if a water-hole was within his boundaries, 
would the tribe be prevented from resorting to it? Certainly not. What 
rights, what privileges could individual proprietorship confer in a community 
of savages ? 


Native dogs are found at every encampment. They are in all conditions — 
some very old, some mature and strong, and some in the stage of puppyhood. 
Not less than twenty, perhaps forty, may be seen at any time when a number of 
natives encamp for the night. Before European dogs were introduced, the 
blacks took the puppies of the wild dog, and brought them up, and trained 
them to hunt. They are very kind to their dogs, and indeed nothing more 
offends a black than to speak harshly to his dogs, or to depreciate them ; and 
if any one gave a black man's dog a blow, he would incur bitter enmity. Mr. 
Gkison has seen a woman crying over a dog that had been bitten by a snake ; 
and he is of opinion that they take as much care of their dogs as if they 
belonged to the human species. Their dogs are not only affectionate and faith- 
ful companions, but they are of the greatest use to the natives. They assist 
them in finding opossums, snakes, rats, and lizards. They are, however, not 
generally well fed. The black eats the meat, and the dog gets the bones. A 
great many ribs, some belonging to the dead, and some to the living, may be 
seen whenever a black's camp is approached. 

The native's affectionate care of the dog is not confined to gentle treatment 
and kind words. The black woman is often its nurse. Sir Thomas Mitchell 


says that "the women not unfreqnently suckle the young pups, and so 
bring them up; but these are always miserably thin, so that we knew 
a native's dog from a wild one by the starved appearance of the follower of 
manr" * 

The kindness they show to the domesticated animal does not prevent them 
from hunting and killing the wild dog. When they catch one, he is killed and 
thrown on the fire, his hair is singed off, his entrails are taken out, and he is 
roasted in an oven constructed of heated stones. The carcass is covered with 
bark or grass, and earth ; and in the course of two hours or more he is well 
cooked and fit to be eaten. 

Buckley says that the howling of the numerous wild dogs affected his 
spirits considerably.! I can well believe this. When on the Powlett River, 
some years ago, my hospitable entertainer, the superintendent of the station 
known as the Wild Cattle Run, killed a calf, in order to provide a sumptuous 
supper, and the scent of the blood, or the knowledge conveyed to them somehow 
that a beast had been slain, brought the wild dogs from the forest, and about 
midnight they came close to the hut and howled most dismally. Ever and 
anon a savage sound came from them too, as if they knew that blood was near. 
They did not leave until they had aroused every sleeper. 

In the Cape Otway forest, and in the forests at the sources of the Qoulbum, 
they are large and fierce. They generally follow any animal that they mean to 
kill in a long line, one after the other, several paces apart, the largest and 
strongest dogs keeping the lead. When snow lies on the eastern mountains, 
and food is scarce, they will not hesitate to track a traveller. 

Their depredations on the flocks of the settlers were at one time of serious 
importance; and, in consequence, it became necessary to use poison. Great 
numbers were killed; and then another evil — ^a serious increase of grass-eating 
marsupials — ^followed. Their natural enemy, the dingo, being in any district 
exterminated or greatly reduced in numbers, they increased in proportion, and 
soon measures had to be taken to kill the large mobs of kangaroos that con- 
sumed the grass. 

In one district, a correspondent informs me, the dingoes have become so 
cunning as to refuse the poisoned baits set for them. It is certain that some 
sheep-dogs are so well acquainted with the fact that poisoned meats are laid for 
dogs that they will not eat meat they chance to see when travelling. 

The Australian dingo is not wanting in courage. When fairly pinned in a 
comer, he will attack a man, and exhibit the fierceness of a watch-dog. A rather 
small dingo was exhibited some years ago at a great dog-show in Melbourne. 
He attracted much attention, and while I was present he got loose. He was 
not in the least afraid. He looked carefully at the great number of dogs 
chained to pillars and posts, and selecting one, a bull-dog, as an antagonist, he 
walked slowly towards him, erecting his bristles and snarling, and would have 
attacked him had not a keeper appeared and secured him. 

* Eastern Australia, vol. ii., p. 341. f Narrative, p. 13. 


The dingo (Canis dingo) is called by many names in various parts of 
Australia ; and of these^ perhaps, the most common are the following : — 

Yarra - - - - Year-angin or Wer-renrwil-lum. 

Gippsland - - - - Ngurran. 

Western part of Victoria - Pumung (male, pip kuru; female, Nrung- 


King Gteorge's Sound - - Tocyrt. 

Eaffles Bay - - . Alee. 

Karaula - - - - Myeye. 

Wellington Valley - - Mirree. 

Eegent's Lake (Lachlan) - Merry, 

Moreton Bay - - - Mchee. 

WoUondilly River - - Merrigang or WarrigaL 

(Wuragul or Waragul means wild or 
savage, in the dialect of the Yarra and 
Western Port natives.) 

The dingo is not unlike a sheep-dog, but he resembles also the fox, and at 
times when he is enraged he has a wolf-like aspect. He is about two feet in 
height, and his length is about two feet six inches. His head is rather like that 
of a fox ; his ears are erect and not long, and he has whiskers on the muzzle. 
He stands firmly on his legs, and shows a good deal of strength in his well- 
constructed body — a body not likely to be overloaded with fat even when well 
fed. His color varies firom a yellowish-tawny to a reddish-brown, growing lighter 
towards the belly ; and the tip of his brush is generally white. He cannot bark 
like other dogs, but howls, and utters a kind of screech if much irritated. He 
has a habit, too, of turning his head over his shoulder when he regards an 
enemy, that reminds one of the fox. He affords good sport to a pack of 

The natives speared the wild dog, or took the pups from their lair and ate 
them. I cannot learn that they set traps for this animal. 

It was believed by some for a length of time that the wild dog was of recent 
introduction to Australia ; but this is not so. In sinking a well through volcanic 
ash, near Tower Hill (Western district of Victoria), the workman came upon dry 
grass, like hay, at a depth of sixty-three feet. Underneath this ancient grass- 
clad surface they sank a depth of sixty feet through a blue and yellow clay, and 
there they found the skull and bones of a dingo. And at Lake Timboon, also 
in the Western district, the bones of the wild dog are found with those of the 
Tasmanian Devil {Sarcophilus ursinus), now extinct on the mainland, and only 
found living in Tasmania ; the bones and teeth of the gigantic extinct kangaroos 
{Macropus Titan and M, Atlas), as well as bones and teeth of the genera 
Nototherium and Diprotodon. In fact it is now beyond doubt that the dingo 
was alive and well when the now extinct marsupial lion {Thylacoleo) roamed 
through the forests of Australia ; when the huge Dromarnis fed peacefully 


OD the plains ; uid when the volcaiioeB, now cold and smokeless, sent forth 
cloads of ashes and pillars of fire. 

The native dog is not a decayed European species, bat one entirely and 
exclusively Australian.* Fig. 14 shows him as he usually appears. 

CLiHBma Trees. 

The natives are compelled by their necessities to ascend trees very frequently, 
either for the pttrpose of catching animals, or for honey, or for bark for their 
canoes or willams; and they are very expert and nimble in climbing to a great 
height, whether the tree be straight or crooked, or of large or small dimensions. 
The clumsy attitudes of a European who attempts to climb a pole or a tree 
would excite the merriment of the Australian natives. They not only do their 
business well, but, as a rule, do it gracefully. 

The common method of climbing trees is well known. The native takes his 
tomahawk and cuts a notch in the bark of the tree about three and a half or 
four and a half feet from the ground. He puts the great toe of one foot into 
this, and, raising himself as high as he can, and grasping the tree with one 
arm, be cuts another notch a stage higher, and thus ascends. He works very 
rapidly ; and it is rare indeed that a black misses his hold and falls to the- 
ground. In the basin of the River Tarra, and in the Western Port district, 

* Qkj mentioDB hftTing leen a. dog in North-Weitem Anstnlbi altogether diffbreut Id appear- 
ance from the dingo or Canit Aiutralitntit. It reiembled the Mala^ dog common to the island of 

Timor. Orej nerer law one irild — only domesticated and in the ricinity of the natiyei NorA- 

West and Weatent Auttralia, vol. i., p. S39 


and in many other parts of the colony, there are large numbers of old trees to 
be seen with notches in the bark, which the blacks have climbed for the purpose 
of catching opossums, or for getting bark. In West Australia the end of the 
wooden handle of the tomahawk is sharpened, and the native sticks the end into 
the bark after making a notch, and drags himself up. 

This method of climbing by catting notches is practised probably in all parts 
of the continent. Collins gives an account of it in his work on Kew South 
Wales (1804). He says : — " It has been remarked that these natives had longer 
arms and legs than those who lived about Sydney. This might proceed from 
their being compelled to climb the trees after honey and the small animals 
which resort to them, such as the flying sqnirrel and opossum, which they effect 
by cutting with their stone hatchets notches in the bark of the tree of a suffi- 
cient depth and size to receive the ball of the great toe. The first notch being 
cut, the toe is placed in it, and while the left arm embraces the tree, a second is 
cut at a convenient distance, to receive the other foot. By this method they 
ascend with astonishing quickness, always clinging with the left hand, and 
catting with the right, resting the whole weight of the body on the ball of either 
foot. One of the gum-trees was observed by a party on an excursion, which 
was judged to be about one hundred and thirty feet in height, and which had 
been notched by the natives at least eighty feet.'" 

Mr. Le Souef says that the blacks at Twofold Bay oft«n climb trees in the 
following manner. They make a rope of the fibre of some vegetable, and attach 
wooden handles to it, and ascend with ease even very tall smooth trunks. — 
(Fig. 15.) 

The natives of Tasmania also climbed trees by tiie aid of a rope iu the 
same way. 

'An Aeeoant Iff Ou EngOth Colony in iVew South Waiei, hj lienl.-Col. CollinB, p. 3S7. 


Bometimes a tree ie climbed witli the help of a rope made of the fibre of 
etringybark. The rope is passed round the trunk of the tree and the body of 
the climber, and is so adjusted as to fit into the small of the man's back. 
His tomahawk is kept in his waist>-belt. The rope is held by the hands ; the 
body is pressed against the tree, and by qnicHy jerking the rope upwards a 
tall trunk is very easily climbed. Mr. Howitt obtained information respecting 
this method from two natives of Gippsland, who, when they saw the sketch he 
had made, expressed themselves as highly delighted. They suggest«d sn 
alteration, and when that waa effected, they exclaimed, " Ko-ki.' berry good 1 
that fellow all right now 1 " 

In Queensland the native makes nse of the strong creepers or climbing 
plants, instead of a rope, and ascends a tree with great ease.* 

Fig. 16, showing a native of Queensland in the act of ascending a tree, is 
from a photograph. 


The natives have an easy method of telegraphing news to their distant 
friends. When Sir Thomas Mitchell was travelling through Eastern Australia, 
he often saw columns of smoke ascending through the trees in the forests, and 
he soon leamt that the natives used the smoke of fires for the purpose of 
making known his movements to their friends. Near Mount Frazer he observed 
a dense column of smoke, and subsequently other smokes arose, extending in a 
telegraphic line far to the south along the base of the mountains, and thus 
communicating to the natives who might be upon his route homewards the 
tidings of his return. 

* The IndiBDS of South America climb trees vith the oisiatance of a hoop of wild vineB; and a 
limilar method b adopted in Ceylon and in »oine parte of Africa.— S« Tylor'e Early Biatory of 
Mantaiid, IB70, p. 173. 


When Sir Thomas reached Portland Bay he noticed that when a whale 
appeared in the bay the natives were accustomed to send up a column of smoke^ 
thus giving timely intimation to all the whalers. If the whale should be 
perceived by one boat's crew only, it might be taken ; but if pursued by several, 
it would probably be run ashore and become food for the blacks.* 

Jardine, writing of the natives of Cape York, says that " communication 
between the islanders and the natives of the mainland is frequent; and the rapid 
manner in which news is carried firom tribe to tribe to great distances is 
astonishing. I was informed of the approach of H.M.S. Salamander on her 
last visit two days before her arrival here. Intelligence is conveyed by means 
of fires made to throw smoke up in different forms, and by messengers who 
perform long and rapid journeys."t 

Messengers in all parts of Australia appear to have used this mode of 
signalling. In Victoria, when travelling through the forest, they were accus- 
tomed to raise smoke by filling the hollow of a tree with green boughs and 
setting fire to the trunk at its base;«and in this way, as they always selected an 
elevated position for the fire when they could, their movements were made 

"When engaged in hunting, when travelling on secret expeditions, when 
approaching an encampment, when threatened with danger, or when foes 
menaced their friends, the natives made signals by raising a smoke. And 
their fires were lighted in such a way as to give forth signals that would be 
understood by people of their own tribe and by friendly tribes. They exhibited 
great ability in managing their system of telegraphy; and in former times it 
was not seldom used to the injury of the white settlers, who, at first, had no 
idea that the thin column of smoke rising through the foliage of the adjacent 
bush, and raised perhaps by some feeble old woman, was an intimation to the 
warriors to advance and attack the Europeans. 


Capt. Grey makes a remarkable statement respecting the mode in which the 
natives swear amity to one another, or pledge themselves to aid one another in 
avenging a death. He says it is exactly the form referred to in Genesis, ch. 
xxiv., V. 9 : — " One native remains seated on the ground with his heels tucked 
under him, in the Eastern manner ; the one who is about to narrate a death to 
him approaches slowly, and with averted face, and seats himself cross-legged 
upon the thighs of the other; they are thus placed thigh to thigh, and squeezing 
their bodies together they place breast to breast — both then avert their faces, 
their eyes frequently fill with tears — no single word is spoken; and the one who 
is seated uppermost places his hands under the thighs of his friend ; having 
remained thus seated for a minute or two, he rises up and withdraws to a little 
distance without speaking — ^but an inviolable pledge to avenge the death has by 
this ceremony passed between them." 

* Eastern Australia, by Major T. L. Mitchell, F.G.S., vol. u,, p. 241. 
f Overland Expedition, p. 85. 



I have made enquiries on this sabject, and the Bev. Mr. Bolmer informs me 
that there is no particular mode of swearing amity known to him. The Murray 
blacks have a word to express a determination to prove faithftd to a oxnpact — 
Merra mat i'imbay which is an nntranshitable term, bat might have its eqtdva- 
lent in ^^ Verily, I say to yon/' The sentence may be divided thns : — 

Merra nuU i-imba. 
Verily, I to you. 

When an Aboriginal uses this term, he is thought to be sincere. There is a 
similar term in use amongst the Gippsland blacks — Mack Gnata^ which means 
" Beally yes," or " Very yes." This word macA is generally used to express 
emphasis, as Mack lancy '^Veiy good;" Ma4:k thar^ ^'A real name;" Ma^k 
Naatbanj ^^ Beally no;" so that a black who wishes to inspire confidence will use 
such a term. In swearing amity, they would do it much in the same way as 
ourselves, by a hearty grip of the hand or an embrace. Mr. Bulmer believes 
that there is not any specified way of performing the ceremony, but that, no 
doubt, it would depend on the position of the persons at the time, whether 
reclining or otherwise, or it might be in case of sickness and probable death 
that such a mode as that referred to by Capt. Grey was adopted. Mr. Bulmer is 
inclined to think that the ceremony described by that explorer was some form 
of incantation, for that is exactly the way their medicine-men sometimes handle 
their patients. 


Those who have lived amongst the blacks cannot Ml to have observed that 
they are always expecting a fight. Distant tribes send messages to them re- 
lating to various matters, and other messages are returned, vdiich are not always 
of a satisfiustory character — and anger and ilUwill, at last, lead to an outbreak. 
Sometimes a man is sick in a tribe, and his friends at once conclude that he has 
been made ill by the evil practices of his enemies ; suspicion is created — ^hints 
are given by wary old blackfellows who have old grudges unsatisfied, and at 
length some tribe is fixed upon with which it is deemed necessary to negotiate. 
Ambassadors are sent to the offending tribe ; these return and make their report ; 
there is much talking amongst the elders ; and finally the excitement in the 
minds of the men and women of both tribes results in a meeting. The sick man 
is brought out of his miam, and the accused are required to stand beside him, 
and to clear themselves. They behave thus : The sick man is provided with a 
club and a shield; if the person who presents himself is considered innocent, he 
strikes the shield of the accused with his club, and the accused returns the blow 
lightly, and retires. If one is singled out as the guilty person, a young man is 
selected to fight him, and the two seldom cease fighting until blood is drawn. 

Sometiines-but rarely-* fight is arranged for the purpose of testing the 
strength of a tribe. As a rule, fights are brought about by the misconduct of 
the women, the unauthorized killing of game, the sickness of some member of 
a tribe, the death of a prominent man, the quarrels of children of different 
families, or, not seldom, by trivial differences arising out of imaginary griev- 


In such encoTUiters the women appear to suffer most^ and in a great fight 
one or more of them may be killed ; but the warriors are not often mortally 
wounded during an engagement.* Several of the men may be seriously hurt ; 
and if the wounds be caused by jagged spears, they may be rendered helpless 
for a long time; but Nature is kind to creatures of her own rearing, and a gash 
that would kill a civilized European is easily repaired if inflicted on a black 
man, who has no mechanical contrivances, nor bitter medicines, nor spirituous 
liquors to vex him in his paia.t After a very serious battle, some of the con- 
quered may be murdered — and in committing these crimes there is evinced 
a malignity which is not to be extenuated even amongst the most savage 

* Fights amongst the natiTes were commoa in the early days of the settlement at Sydney. 
Collins relates that hostile tribes were frequently engaged in combat, often daring two days and 
more, and that much blood was shed, bnt there was scarcely eyer any loss of life. — ^P. 303. 

He says, also, that the women almost inyariably are the cause of qnarreb and fights, and some- 
times, when hostile tribes meet, ja woman begins the battle, scolding the enemy, and hitting the men 
on the head with a club. — CoUina^ 1804, pp. 875-6. 

t " The natires pay but little regard to the wounds they receire in duels, or which are inflicted 
on them as punishments ; their sufferings from all injuries are much less than those which Europeans 
would undergo in similar circumstances ; this may probably arise from their abstemious mode of 
life, and from their nerer using any other bererage than water. A striking instance of their apathy 
with regard to wounds was shown on one occasion in a fight which took place in the Tillage of 
Perth, in Western Australia. A native man receiyed a wound in that portion of Us frame which is 
only presented to enemies when in the act of flight, and the spear, which was barbed, remained 
sticking in the wound ; a gentleman who was standing by watching the fray, regarded the man with 
looks of pity and commiseration, which the natiye perceiying, came up to him, holding the spear (still 
in the wound) in one band, and turning round, so as to expose the injury he had receiyed, said in the 
most moying terms, 'Poor fellow, siq^nce giye it 'um.' " — North- Wut and WeMtem AuMtralia, Grey, 
Tol. n^ pp. 244-^. 

A gentleman, formerly residing in Wellington Valley, in New South Wales, and holding a high 
position under the Qoyemment, informs me that on one occasion he saw a natiye pierced by a spear. 
It entered his chest, and the point eame out under the blade-bone. When the spear waa withdrawn, 
the man was seen by a surgeon, who declared that portions of the lungs were adhering to the spear. 
The sufliBrer plugged the holes with gum and grass, and recoyered so rapidly as to be able to walk 
a distance of eighteen miles after the lapse of a week. 

Another oorrespondent*states that a blackf(^ow whose abdomen was perforated by a bullet used 
grass and gum in the same manner, and neyer seemed to suffer much from the wound. 

Collins states that a black who had had a barbed spear driyen into his loins, dose by the 
yertebra of the back, had recourse to the surgeons of the settlements. Their utmost skill fiuled 
to extract the weapon, and he went away trusting to nature for a reooyery. He walked about for 
seyeral weeks with the spear unmoyed, eyen after suppuration had taken place. Finally the spear- 
head was extracted by TFar-re-weer, his wife, who fixed her teeth in it and drew it out. He 
recoyered in a short timc^Cbtfiiw, 1804, p. 816. 

''Leigh relates the case of an Australian whose temporal bone had been fractured by a blow, 
and the temporal artery diyided, and of another whose ulna and radius had been fractured in a 
terrible manner $ that the first took part on the following day in some public meeting, and that, 
though worms appeared in the arm of the second, the recoyery in both took place without any 
operation or eyen dressing." — Introduction to Anihropologyt l>7 ^' Theodor Waltz, 1863, p. 186. 

I haye from time to time examined a large number of the skulls of natiyes, and I haye seen on 
many of them indentations and marks of injuries, endently, from the state of the bones and the 
sutures, inflicted long prior to death ; and I haye often wondered how Nature^ unassisted, could 
repair such serious hurts. All the eyidenoe I haye collected goes to show that the natiye, uncon- 
taminated by association with Europeans, is as independent of adyentitious aids, in the cure of 
wounds and fractures, as the wild animals of the forest. 


The natives seem to take great pleasure in these enconnters. They have 
afforded them on such occasions the opportunity of displaying their skill as 
gymnasts and in the use of their yarious weapons^ and of proving their superi- 
ority, not only to the enemy with whom they may be engaged, but to the warriors 
of their own tribe. Emulation leads them to attempt feats of daring, and 
during the excitement of a general engagement they freely risk their lives. In 
many cases warrior is pitted against warrior, and those thus engaged are not 
molested by either enemies or friends. It would appear that unfair advantage 
is seldom taken. They fight, too, when there is no actual ill-will between the 
combatants, rather for the display of skill and agility than for the purpose of 
shedding blood. A great battle between two tribes is not a brawl — a brutal, 
savage, bloodthirsty onset — but generally a well-devised set-to between the 
fighting-men of each side. Towards the end, when the blood is heated — ^when 
the yells and screams of the women and children are added to the hoarse shouts 
of the warriors, when wives rush in to protect their husbands, and mothers 
cling to their sons to shelter them and help them — ^there are many blows struck 
in anger, and much mischief is occasionally done ; but the combats between the 
fighting-men are not usually attended by very serious consequences. The 
jumping, dancing, and spear-throwing induce a copious perspiration, and the 
war paint begins to take new forms, and the ornaments they have assumed get 
disarranged ; but beyond these casualties and a few ugly knocks, they come out 
of the fight most often scatheless. 

To a stranger — one new to the country — a great fight amongst the natives is 
calculated to create alarm. The decorations of the warriors (except for their 
paint and feathers or boughs, naked), their loud cries as they advance, the 
shaking of the spears, the rattling of the clubs and other weapons as they 
strike the shields or the trees, the wailing of the women, and the general aspect 
of the assembled tribes, all — even including the grouping of the dogs — showing 
a state of unusual excitement and turmoil, are likely enough to raise feelings of 
terror. And then the scenery, so little in keeping with the violent motions of 
the warriors and their savage yells, adds, by contrast, to the sternness of the 
picture. Bounding the space where the combat is going on are numerous 
ancient gum-trees, whose richly-colored boles, sheltering here and there a 
cherry-tree clad in bright-green foliage, present in themselves exquisite pictures, 
and perhaps, if the season is spring, the banks of the neighbouring creek will be 
clothed with wattle-trees in luxuriant blossom. The sward on which the war- 
riors are trampling is a short smooth grass, and beyond, seen through the trees, 
are gentle slopes, at the foot of one or more of which are the miams of the 
tribe, from whose fires thin blue smoke rises and seems to blend in the color of 
the unclouded sky. 

Only amongst uncivilized peoples and in forests where the axe of the white 
man has not been heard can such scenes be witnessed ; and though they may 
induce disgust and abhorrence, they are not altogether devoid of those elements 
which serve to elevate our species. When the fight is over, the wounded are 
well cared for. The animosity which infiuenced some of the more truculent 
of the warriors is forgotten or concealed, and not seldom help is given 


to the injured by both parties. Perhaps the day's work is concluded by 
a dance, and the reconciliation of the tribes completely effected — ^to be inter- 
rupted only when the winning graces and bright looks of some amongst 
the women enthrall a strange warrior, and lead to a new cause of 

Though there were commonly few deaths on such occasions, men and women 
were killed sometimes, and the wars consequently had a tendency to reduce the 
numbers of the tribes. When a warrior was slain, his wives were disposed of, 
and the youngest children of the wives, and the children born after the decease 
of the husband, most probably destroyed. 

There have been no serious encounters — conducted strictly in accordance 
with the etiquette of savage life — ^in the Colony of Victoria for many years. 
After the arrival of Europeans, new implements were used, and new methods of 
warfare were adopted ; and there are probably not very many now living who 
have seen a well-contested fight, after the Aboriginal fashion, in this colony. 
From the narrative of William Buckley one can gather, however, some accurate 
notion of how the fights of the natives were conducted. He seems to have 
given a very careful account of these, or the compiler of BtLckley^s Life and 
AdventMres — Mr. John Morgan — ^must have had an excellent knowledge of the 
habits of the Australians. 

One battle is thus described in Buckley's narrative : — " In a very short time 
the fight began, by a shower of spears from the contending parties. One of our 
men advanced singly, as a sort of champion ; he then began to dance and sing, 
and beat himself about with his war implements ; presently they all sat down, 
and he seated himself also. For a few minutes all was silent ; then our 
champion stood up, and commenced dancing and singing again. Seven or 
eight of the savages — ^for so I must call them-~-our opponents, then got up also, 
and threw their spears at him ; but, with great dexterity, he warded them off, 
or broke them every one, so that he did not receive a single wound. They then 
threw their boomerangs at him, but he warded them off also, with ease. After 
this, one man advanced, as a sort of champion from their party, to within three 
yards of him, and threw his boomerang, but the other avoided the blow by 
falling on his hands and knees ; and, instantly jumping up again, he shook 
himself like a dog coming out of the water. At seeing this, the enemy shouted 
out in their language ^ enough,' and the two men went and embraced each other. 
Aft^er this, the same two beat their own heads until the blood ran down in 
streams over their shoulders. A general fight now commenced, of which all 
this had been the prelude, spears and boomerangs flying in all directions. The 
sight was very terrific, and their yells and shouts of defiance very horrible. At 
length one of our tribe had a spear sent right through his body, and he fell. 
On this, our fellows raised a war-cry ; on hearing which, the women threw off 
their rugs, and, each armed with a short club, fiew to the assistance of their 
husbands and brothers ; I being peremptorily ordered to stay where I was ; my 
supposed brother's wife remaining with me. Even with this augmentation, our 
tribe fought to great disadvantage, the enemy being all men, and much more 
numerous. Boon after dark the hostile tribe left the neighbourhood ; and, on 


discovering this retreat from the battle-ground, ours determined on following 
them immediately, leaving the women and myself where we were. On 
approaching the enemy's quarters, they laid themselves down in ambush until 
all was quiet, and, finding most of them asleep, lying about in groups, our 
party rushed upon them, killing three on the spot and wounding several others. 
The enemy fled precipitately, leaving their war implements in the hands of their 
assailants, and their wounded to be beaten to death by boomerangs — three loud 
shouts closing the victors' triumph." 

An account of another fight is given by Buckley : — ^^ In the first place, they 
seated themselves on their rugs, in groups of half-dozens, or thereabouts, 
keeping their spears and shields and waddies all ready at hand ; our party 
being prepared also. At length the young man already mentioned advanced 
towards us. He had bunches of emu's feathers tied to different parts of his 
body by a kind of yarn they make by twisting the hair of the opossum ; he was 
cutting the most extraordinary capers, and challenged our men to fight — an 
offer which was accepted practically by a boomerang being thrown at him, and 
which grazed his leg. A spear was then thrown, but he warded it off cleverly 
with his shield. He made no return to this, but kept capering and jumping 
about until one of our men advanced veiy near to him, with only a shield and 
a waddy, and then the two went to work in good earnest, blow following blow, 
until the first had his shield split, so that he had nothing to defend himself 
with but his waddy. His opponent took advantage of this, and struck him a 
tremendous blow on one side of the head, and knocked him down ; but he was 
instantly on his legs again, the blood, however, flowing veiy freely over his 
back and shoulders. His friends then cried out enough, and threatened 
general hostilities if another blow was struck ; and this having the desired 
effect, they all soon after separated quietly ; thus ending an affair which at one 
time promised to conclude very differently." 

The late Mr. Thomas, in his notes prepared for this work at my request, 
describes a fight which he witnessed on the 6th December 1843. The tribes 
from Barrabool, Bun-ung-on, and Leigh Biver, encamped at a spot lying to the 
north of Melbourne, at half-past four o'clock p.m. They advanced in close 
lines, ten deep, and ten in each line, and squatted on the grass ; the Barrabool 
west of the Bun-ung-on, and a little to the north-west of these the Leigh Biver 
tribe. After sitting in silence for about half an hour. King William, the 
principal man of the three tribes, advanced spear in hand, and quite naked, as 
indeed were all the warriors. King William harangued the groups. He stated 
that certain blacks were charged with killing two natives and abducting their 
wives ; that the blacks so charged and their tribe were not afraid of appearing 
before the Gk)ulbum, Mount Macedon, Yarra, and Coast tribes, and they were 
ready to have the accusers' spears thrown at them. While King WUliam was 
speaking, another black came forward and produced a number of charges, chal- 
lenged his enemies, and acted generally in a rather violent manner. Whereupon 
two warriors arose and made speeches, and expressed their willingness to receive 
the spears of their opponents in the face of the assembled tribes. Then ensued 
a general disturbance. All the men of all the tribes were greatly agitated, and 


many seized the opportanity to re-ftirbisli their weapons. Those accused of 
murder were quite naked and in mourning — ^that is to say, painted white — and 
those charged with a lesser offence, being accomplices or otherwise implicated, 
were also naked, but decorated with boughs (Mufrum or Mocran Karrang) just 
above the ankles. The men with the boughs on their ankles were on this 
occasion stationed in front of the tribes, about ten yards from the nearest of 
those squatting on the ground. Their opponents advanced towards them, shook 
their weapons, threw dust in the air, and commenced stamping and hissing, and 
grinding their teeth, dancing from time to time through the ashes of a bark fire 
that was kept burning at the spot. Then they formed a line, and were headed 
by their principal men; then they arranged themselves in a moment in the 
shape of a crescent, and as quickly formed again a straight line, all the time 
hissing, grinding their teeth, stamping and grimacing, shaking their spears, and 
jumping to an extraordinary height. At one time they stretched themselves 
on the ground so as almost to touch the grass with their noses, keeping their 
spears parallel with their bodies, and, acting in concert, they presented a very 
remarkable spectacle. They ran backwards, sideways, and all ways, approach- 
ing often close to the line of the men in murmm. All these frantic gestures 
were used, however, merely to excite themselves and the accused. The principal 
men on both sides kept up their somewhat angry discourse during the whole of 
this procedure, and finally settled what was to be done. The word of command 
at length was given : each black was at his post armed with his wonguim, 
mulga, and leonile, either in his hand or lying on the grass at his feet ; and in a 
moment a shower of missiles was directed towards the men in murrum. Some 
of the missiles hit others not implicated ; their ire was aroused, and a general 
fight ensued. Spears were hurled, and those amongst ttie accused who were 
not struck were attacked with clubs and the leonile. (The latter, a most 
formidable weapon, is used to strike at the head only.) The men not engaged 
in the quarrel now interfered, going amongst the bdligerents, with spears in 
their hands, not throwing them, but pretending to throw them, whereby they 
incurred danger in thus intermeddling, as spears were thrown by angry men at 
them. A blow of a waddy from a disinterested individual put an end^ however, 
to this, and after a brief scrimmage the battle might be said to be over. At 
this stage the wives of the accused persons joined the m61te; and wailing, 
howling, and jabbering, they commenced a fight of their own. Each woman, 
holding her yam-stick {Kuvrang)^ advanced towards her opponent and aimed 
a blow. This was received on the yam-stick, which in defence is held in a 
horizontal position, so as to protect the head. She struck perhaps two or three 
blows, and then held her stick downwards but ready for defence, and received 
the blows of her antagonist. This strange fight was continued for some time, 
and the awful howls and execrations were deafening. At last the men inter- 
fered* They hurled spears at the women, but so as not to touch them, yet not 
until a strong man went to them spear in hand in a very threatening manner 
did they disperse. As they departed, shrieking defiance, they beat the ground 

* A strong, stoat stick, sharpened at one end, most often at both ends, and hardened in the fire, 
about seyen feet in length, and used commonly for digging roots, &c. 


with their yam-sticks. Finally the head-men, after much discussion, settled 
the differences, and this great battle was finished. 

Mr. Thomas states that of all the fights he has seen he has never known 
but of one death to arise from their frays.* He has seen desperate wounds 
inflicted very often, but none but one was mortal. The one death referred to 
was that of Ter-runnuky a fine young blackfellow of the Bun-ung-on tribe, who, 
in a fight with the Barrabool men, was struck with a wonguim, which passed 
through the lower part of his thigh. He was careftdly attended to by Mr. 
Thomas, who had him removed to his own farm at Pentridge, but he died, 
contrary to the expectations of the large number of natives who were encamped 
near Melbourne at the time and witnessed the occurrence. 

In the great fight above described six natives were severely wounded, one 
being penetrated by a double-jagged spear. It went quite through his thigh. 
The long part was broken off, and the remainder dragged through the wound. 
Ten of the women had their knuckles broken, and many of the men were 
injured by the wonguim. % 

Mr. liiomas does not say what punishment was finally inflicted on the men 
accused of murder. It is to be presumed that they were dealt with during the 

When the fighting is quite at an end there is, says Mr. Thomas, an end also 
to aU animosity. The wounded are carefully attended to, sometimes by those 
who a short time before were bent on inflicting wounds ; the injured parts are 
washed, and such simple remedies as are known to them are quickly applied. 

The fights of the natives are conducted, in all parts of Australia, pretty 
much after the manner described by Buckley. 

A very interesting account of a series of fights amongst the tribes living 
on the Macleay Biver (lat. 31^ S.) is given in Mr. Clement Hodgkinson's work, 
entitled Australia^ from Port Mucqtiarie to Moreton Bay. He says : — 

"The fights of the natives are generally conducted on the principles of 
retributive justice. Their mode of warfare is fair, open, and manly; for tribes 
on hostile terms scorn to take the least undue advantage of each other, and 
the instant a fight is concluded, both parties seem perfectly reconciled, and 
jointly assist in tending the wounded men. In this respect the quarrels of the 
Aborigines of New South Wales present a striking contrast to the cruel and 
treacherous warfare of the North American Indians and the ferocious and 
implacable contests which used to take place among the ci-dewM man-eating 
New Zealanders. Acts of treachery sometimes occur between individual 
natives ; but these acts, though they involve the tribe to which the offending 
party belongs in war with the other tribe, are always punished, as the offender 
has always to bear the brunt of the engagement, and stand for some time 
alone, unassisted by his companions, as a butt for the spears of the immediate 
relations of the man whom he has killed or wounded. It seems to be a regular 
principle with the Australian Aborigines that blood must be shed for blood; and, 
as an example will better illustrate the warfare of the natives than a general 

* See statement respectiog loss of Ufe in fights, p. 32. 


description^ I will give a short account of a quarrel among some Macleay River 
tribes during my stay there. Three young men belonging to the Yarra-Bandini 
tribe^ which was also the name of our cattle station (as that locality was the 
head quarters of this tribe)^ had descended the river in a canoe to Verge's 
station, which is within the limits of the boundaries of the Calliteeni or 
Kempsey tribe. The object they had in view was to kill a Tryal Bay native, 
whom the savages had nick-named Cranky Tom from his comical hilarity; for 
it would appear that Cranky Tom had some time before killed one of the 
relations of these men in a fight, and they now determined to revenge his 
death. Poor Tom, who was my earliest acquaintance among the Tryal Bay 
natives, was stopping, with his 'gin,' Dilberree, near Verge's, without any 
suspicion of treachery, when he was suddenly confronted by his enemies. 
Having endeavoured in vain to protect himself with his shield, he soon fell, 
pierced with wounds, and his head was then cut off by his savage enemies, one 
of whom, named Henry, also took possession of the woman. This act of 
treachery roused the indignation of two tribes, the Kempsey or Calliteeni 
blacks, on whose ground the outrage had been committed, and the Tryal Bay 
blacks, to whom the murdered man belonged. On speaking to the chief men 
of the Yarra-Bandini tribe about this cowardly attack, they merely told me, in 
reply, that Henry and the other men were ' murry stupid ' to act as they did, 
but that Cranky Tom was a ^ murry saucy fellow,' and deserved what he had 
got. The Yarra-Bandini tribe were encamped, in the meantime, close to our 
stockyards. The first of their adversaries in the field were the Kempsey 
blacks, who came over one afternoon, and fought the Yarra-Bandini natives at 
our very doors. The battle was conducted in the most fair and open manner ; 
each party drew up in two lines, armed with spears, shields, and boomerangs, 
and threw spear for spear for a considerable time before any damage was done. 
At length, a Yarra-Bandini black was slightly wounded in the forehead ; and 
soon after a Kempsey native, whom the sawyers named 'Major Lovatt,' was 
transfixed with a spear, which apparently passed through his lungs. This con- 
cluded the fight. Both the hostile parties now mingled together in the most 
friendly way ; and the Yarra-Bandini tribe was even more anxious than the 
other in their endeavours to alleviate the wounds of the dying man. My partner 
also rendered every assistance to him, but he expired in a few minutes. By 
a most extraordinary revulsion of feeling, the Kempsey blacks now became 
fririously enraged against the Tryal Bay tribe, whose cause they had just 
espoused so actively. Accordingly, under the pretence that an immense flock 
of ducks had settled on some lagoon down the river, the Kempsey natives, who 
are few in number, but more conversant with the customs of the whites than 
the others, succeeded in persuading some cedar dealers and sawyers at that 
place to lend them some muskets, which they loaded with slugs, and they then 
proceeded down the river in a boat. The Tryal Bay blacks, who were quite 
taken by surprise by this unusual manoeuvre, were soon worsted, and several of 
them were wounded by the shot, but none killed. Matters now became more 
complicated, for one of the Nambucca River tribes, being indignant at the 
treatment of their neighbours at Tryal Bay, took part in the quarrel. A week 



or two afterwards, being at Yarra-Bandini, a gin, who had been sent from our 
station on some message, returned in a great hurry, glistening with moisture 
from having swam across the creek, as she had seen the Tryal Bay tribe, who 
were coming up to fight the natives at our place. She had scarcely bounded 
away from us to warn them of the approach of their enemies, when the latter 
appeared, marching in Indian file, having their bodies painted with red stripes, 
and their bark shields whitened with pipeclay and adorned with double red 
crosses. They advanced with a measured tramp, carrying their spears aloft at 
a uniform slope, with their shields on the left side. They had just arrived 
where we were standing, when the Yarra-Bandiui blacks, having been warned 
by the gin of the approach of their enemies, dashed out of the adjoining brush, 
and, throwing themselves into regular rows five or six deep, commenced a 
furious dance in defiance of the other party, leaping up and down at a measured 
tread, whilst they beat time with their nulla-nullas and waddies, accompanying 
each jump with a short loud shout. As soon as their adversaries had arrived 
opposite them, each party halted, whilst the chief men on both sides advanced, 
and commenced a most animated dialogue, occasionally threatening each other 
with their spears. A very old woman, whom the Tryal Bay blacks had brought 
up with them, seemed to be particularly active in abusing and insulting the 
Yarra-Bandini natives, whom she railed at unceasingly in a loud, screaming 
voice. As the Australian Aborigines look upon their women as very inferior 
animals to themselves, I suppose the Tryal Bay tribe had brought up this 
scolding old lady in order to evince the greater contempt for the other tribe ; 
much on the same principle which once induced a king of France to send a 
defiance to an English prince by a scullion, instead of a herald, in order to 
insult him the more grievously. After a long altercation, the two hostile tribes 
mingled together as though they were on the best terms with each other ; they 
encamped, however, for the night at some distance apart. Next morning the 
fight commenced, in which, according to the usual custom, the three natives 
who had been the original cause of the quarrel stood prominently forward, 
exposed to the spears of the Tryal Bay blacks for some time, without receiving 
any assistance from their companions, until one of them received a spear wound 
on the instep and another on the knee. The fight then became general, but no 
further damage was done, as each party was equally adroit in warding off with 
their shields the missiles that were fiying about. This engagement seemed to 
conclude the quarrel between the Yarra-Bandini and YarranHapinni blacks, 
as the gin, Dilberree, who had been carried off, was restored to her friends. 
It was, however, some time before the other quarrels which had arisen from this 
affair were fought out ; after which a general peace had to be consolidated by 
solemn corrobborees, danced successively on this grounds of each of the belli- 
gerent tribes. Although the Aborigines are, in general, so honorable and open 
in their warfare with one another, their behaviour towards the whites is veiy 
different, being often treacherous in the extreme. It frequently happens that 
those persons who have been most liberal and kind to the natives are chosen as 
their first victims ; for if a white man gives a present to a native without 
stipulating for some service in return, the latter imputes the generosity of the 


white man to fear. Thus the sawyers at the Nambucca, who gave the blacks a 
large qnantiiy of flour^ tobacco, sugar, &c., in order to propitiate them, became 
immediately exposed to their murderous attacks, which did not cease until the 
natives had received a severe lesson or two, to convince them of the superiority 
of the arms of the white man." 

The Bev. Gleorge Taplin says that on one occasion he witnessed a serious 
outbreak amongst the natives of the Lower Murray, when about one hundred 
people were engaged in earnest endeavours to knock each other's brains out; 
The quarrel arose in this way. He had permitted four girls, about sixteen years 
of age, to sleep in his kitchen, where the flour was kept ; and the natives hearing 
of this, about a dozen of them, armed with spears and kanakis, called late one 
night, and demanded that one of the girls, named Pompanyeripuritye, should 
be given up, as they said she might have eaten of the flour from a bag from 
which the Narumbar had partaken ; the Narumbar being the youths who were 
in course of being made young men, and forbidden to eat with women — ^lest 
they should grow ugly. The men took the girl away — ^though she was un- 
willing to leave Mr. Taplin's house. On the following morning a great dis- 
turbance arose. The natives had now firmly convinced themselves that the 
girls and the young men had eaten of flour taken from the same bag, and the 
youths and their friends attacked the tribe to which the girls belonged, and 
fired their wurleys. This led to a fight. By the time Mr. Taplin reached the 
spot there were men lying on the ground bleeding, and women were wailing 
over them. The warriors as yet unhurt were uttering hoarse shouts and yells 
of defiance, and flourishing their weapons when they were not striking at the 
heads of their opponents. Naked women were dancing about, casting dust in 
the air, and using obscene language to irritate their enemies and to encourage 
their friends. Mr. Taplin went fearlessly amongst them, during the uproar, 
and succeeded at length in persuading them to stop the fight and return to 
their camps, not, however, before he himself narrowly escaped death from a 
spear thrown by Dick Baalpulare. The spear passed within an inch of Mr. 
Taplin's head. The reverend gentleman adds that he had his revenge for this. 
Dick was bitten by a snake one day, and Mr. Taplin had the pleasure of curing 
him. A Missionary's life amongst the wild natives of Australia is not without 
its perils and excitements. 

A fight amongst the Port Lincoln blacks is very well described by Mr. C. 
WUhelmi : — 

^^The second fight, on account of attempted murder, took place in Port 
Lincoln, and the party about to be attacked were invited by heralds to attend 
the combat. The natives, upon their arrival, were painted with a white color, 
and wore little peeled sticks, which looked like plumes, in their hair. They 
marched in long line, three deep, making now and then a halt, and with one 
voice poured forth loud cries. As soon as they had completed these evolutions, 
the other party, who were rather surprised, set to work to answer the salutation. 
After having hastily painted themselves, and arranging themselves in single file, 
they marched in a regular quick short step towards the enemy, who had in the 
meantime formed a camp. After they had thus once or twice marched round 


the enemy's camp^ they formed themselves into a dense mass, bowed their heads, 
and uttered a piercing cry. They repeated these movements two or three times, 
and then returned to their own camp in the same order they had observed upon 
leaving it. That evening, and the greater part of the night, were spent in sing- 
ing and dancing; but with sunrise of the next day the fight commenced. 
Eight men advanced from each side, making use of mimical gestures, although 
the most profound silence was observed. They formed into a row, two deep, 
about twenty paces from each other, so that they came to stand two to two. 
Each warrior stretched his legs apart, and planted his feet firmly on the ground, 
holding a spear and sling in the right hand, and the katta, or grubbing-stick, 
together with other spears, in the left. They pushed forward their chests, and 
moved their bodies from side to side, as a sort of challenge. Each one fixed his 
eyes upon his especial antagonist, and seemed to have no concern about any of 
the others, as if he had nothing to fear at their hands. Not a sound was 
audible. Many spears were thrown on either side, and were avoided by moving 
the upper part of the body to one side, or were parried by giving the spears a 
blow with the katta or other spears held in the left hand. Thus the spears of 
the opponents failed to reach their mark. At length some of the party who sent 
the challenge went over into the ranks of the enemy, to show that they wished 
to put an end to the combat. One quarrelsome old man, who had struck the 
first blow, did not seem to be content to stay his arm witliout having spilled a 
drop of blood. He stood opposed to a young man of not more than twenty 
years of age, and he threw several spears at him after the youth had ceased fight- 
ing. The old rascal made use of the most insulting and provoking language, 
and was paid back, however, in his own coin. At length some of the old man's 
friends interposed, and sought to intimidate him ; but finding they could not 
succeed in this, they made a point of striking up his throwing-stick as often as 
he placed a spear on it, thus causing the weapon to fall useless on the ground. 
The skiUul manner in which the Aborigines avoid or parry the spears is truly 
astonishing. Mr. Schiirmann, who was an eye-witness of the last-mentioned 
affair, tells us that the old man, who was renowned as a good marksman, took 
such good aim that it seemed almost a certainty that he would hit his adver- 
sary ; nevertheless, each spear was met and glided off the young man's katta 
and shot over his shoulder, passing in close proximity to his ear. This can only 
be accomplished by a sure and a firm glance, which are amongst the Aborigines 
looked upon as the highest virtues of which they can boast, and of which they 
are the most proud. It has been said that the Aborigines of this country are 
possessed of a cowardly disposition, and it may be that, when opposed to the 
whites, who are better armed and generally mounted, they have been found 
wanting in courage. But it is impossible for any one who has been an eye- 
witness to one of their own fights to form such an opinion; on the contrary, he 
will be forced to confess that, when stirred up by passion, they will brave any 
danger. They are extremely sensitive upon this point, and look upon being called 
a coward as tiie greatest insult that can be offered. That little blood is spilled 
in these Aboriginal contests is to be ascribed either to their skill or to the fact 
that they are by no means bloodthirsty. Although, on the one side, they possess 


a fierce and hostQe spirit^ stilly on the other^ it must be observed that they are 
capable of the more noble feelings of pity and compassion. This is called forth 
by a dangerous wound '' 

In a pamphlet entitled Remarks on the probable Origin and Antiquity of the 
Aboriginal Natives of New South WaleSy by a Colonial Magistrate, is a para- 
graph to the following effect : — " The only remarkable custom (differing from 
other savages) in their fighting expeditions is the adoption of the custom com- 
manded to the Israelites on going out to war. [Deuteronomy, ch. xxiii., v. 12 
to 14.] The natives believe that if the enemy discovered it they would bum it 
in the fire, and thus ensure their collective destruction, or that individually 
they would pine away and die." 

In some parts of Australia the natives sent by a tribe to convey a challenge 
carry with them spears, decorated with the feathers of the emu;* and the 
warriors, when they prepare for battle, use various colors for painting their 
bodies. The colors, it is believed, are not selected at will by any of the 
warriors, but are chosen, according to well-known rules, to suit the occasion. 
The mode of painting, and the lines and figures depicted, are, however, left to 
the taste of the men. That they are sufficiently hideous, when arrayed for the 
fight, is agreed by all who have witnessed an engagement. 

It cannot be denied that the natives of Australia exhibit all the worst 
features of savages on some occasions. They cut off the heads of enemies slain 
in battle, and otherwise mutilate them ; and when a man is killed for having 
caused, as they believe, the death of a member of their tribe, they take out the 
kidney-fat and anoint their bodies with it.t They rub themselves with the fat, 
it is said, that they may thereby acquire the strength and courage that formerly 
belonged to the slain man. Hiey do not always wait for the death of the indi- 
vidual before resorting to this disgusting practice. A man, disabled by the 
blow of a club, is inmiediately seized upon, his body cut open, and his kidney- 
fat abstracted. Sometimes the miserable victim, on recovering consciousness, 
sees the conqueror anointing himself. A very strong man, of good constitution, 
will, in case the knife has been used skilfnlly, survive this operation for a day 
or two, enduring firightful agonies, and knowing well that a speedy death is 
certain. Neither doctor nor dreamer can help him, and his only consoling 
thought is that his death will be amply avenged. This subject is mentioned in 
another part of this work. — (^See " MarmbuV) 

* Mr. Samael Gason, writing of the Dieyerie tribe (Cooper's Creek), lat. 28^ S., sajs, that when 
there is a nuannderBtaDding between two tribes, the women of one are sent to the other as ambaasar 
dors to arrange the dispute, which they invariably succeed in doing, when women from the other 
return the risit to testify their approral of the treaty arrived at. The reason women are appointed 
in this capacity is that they are free from danger, while, should the men go, their lives would be in 

t ** They take a man's kidneys out after death, tie them up in something, and cany them round 
the neck as a sort of protection and valuable charm, for either good or evil." — Life and Adveniwreg 
of WaUam Buckley, p. 77. 

The practice of carrying portions of the bodies of deceased relatives is elsewhere referred to. 
Buckley was either not acquainted with the revolting practice described in the text or suppressed 
the facts. 



The natiyes of Australia have various dances — ^and in the performance of 
these exhibit a skiQ and dexterity that can be the result only of long practice. 
The young — ^both male and female — are encouraged to engage in these exer- 
cises ; they are taught by the elders of the tribes^ and they are required to 
observe the rules which have been in force amongst their forefathers with 
scrupulous care. 

Little is known of their mystic dances, which some regard as connected 
with a form of religion, but the Ngargee^ or Yairiryang (corrobboree), is familiar 
to all who have lived in the bush. 

They have their war-dances, before and after fights ; dances appropriate to 
the occasion of "making young men;" dances in which the women only take 
part ; dances in which the movements of the kangaroo, the emu, the frog, the 
butterfly, &c., are imitated ; and a canoe-dance. 

The performers on all such occasions, whether during the day or in the 
night, are naked or nearly naked; grotesquely painted with white clay; and 
they carry clubs or spears, or other weapons suitable to the character of the 
dance. They decorate themselves, too, with boughs of trees and feathers. The 
women generally are the musicians, and the arrangements of the performance 
are governed by a leader (usually an aged man), who beats time with the 
corrobboree-sticks. At night a large fire is kept burning, near which the 
musicians sit. The dancers retire to rude bush miams to array themselves, and 
never appear until their decorations are completed to their satisfaction. 

The late Mr. Thomas makes mention of the sacred dances, when the natives 
set up effigies or painted figures, but gives no description of them. Mr. Parker 
says he has witnessed ceremonies having resemblance to an act of worship, 
when the blacks have assembled to propitiate Mindi, an evil spirit, whose sole 
business it was to destroy.* They dwelt on this — the idea of a powerful and 
destructive spirit — ^with awe and dread. Mindi, they believed, caused death; 
and they used certain prescribed ceremonies in order to appease his anger and 
to avert death and other calamities from themselves, and to excite him to exer- 
cise his power for the injury or destruction of their enemies. " Bude images," 
writes Mr. Parker, " consisting of one large and two small figures, cut in bark 
and painted, were set up in a secluded spot; the place was strictly tabooed; 
the men, |i*nd afterwards the women, dressed in boughs, and having each a 
small wand, with a tuft of feathers tied on it, were made to dance in single file, 
and in a very sinuous course, towards the spot, and after going round it several 
times, to approach the main figure, and touch it reverentially with the wand. I 
believe this to be a relic of the ophilatria or serpent worship of India."t 

* 7%« Aborigines ofAwiralia, by ^ward Stone Parker, 1864. 

f Eyre witnessed a remarkable dance at Moorunde,ln March 1844. The dancers were painted 
and decorated as nsual, and they had tufts of feathers on their heads like cockades. Some carried 
in their hands such tufts tied to the ends of sticks, and others bunches of green boughs. After 
exercising themseWes for some time, they retired, and when they re-appeared they were seen carrying 
a curious mde-Iooking figure raised up in the air. This singular object consisted of a large bundle 
of grass and reeds bound together, enreloped in a kangaroo skin with the flesh side outwards, and 


On another occasion Mr. Parker was present when the natives performed 
the Yepene Amydeet, or dance of the separated spirits. It was new to the 
Aborigines of the Loddon, and was conducted by an old man, who stated that 
it was practised by the people of the north-west, amongst whom he had learnt 
it. It was never introduced on any other occasion, and was soon after nearly 
forgotten. " Holding boughs in each hand, which were waved in unison alter- 
nately over each shoulder, and dancing for some time in lines and semicircles, 
at length they gradually gathered into a compact circular body ; then slowly 
sinking on the ground, and burying their heads under the boughs, they repre- 
sented, according to the statement of the old native, who was master of the 
ceremonies, the approach of death, and in the perfectly still and motionless 
posture they maintained for some time the state of death itself. Then the old 
man, breaking suddenly into a new dance, and waving furiously his boughs 
over the prostrate mass, gave them the word ; and, suddenly springing to their 
feet, they joined him in his rejoicings. This was explained to me as intended 
to represent the revival of the soul after death.'^ 

The ordinary dance of the natives of Victoria — the Ngargee or corrobboree 
— has been careftilly described by Mr. Thomas. A number of males, twenty or 
thirty, or more, if three or four tribes have assembled for this dance, are selected 
as the principal performers, and, as a preliminary, they retire to the bush, away 
from the light of the fire, and decorate themselves, each according to his taste 
— ^not, as a rule, consulting one another, and yet no two appear exactly alike, 
except as regards the faces, which are generally painted pretty much in the same 
manner. The sockets of the eyes are white, a white ring surrounds the sockets, 
white streaks are drawn down the nose, and parallel streaks appear on the fore- 
head. On their bodies the lines are arranged fantastically, but always according 
to some plan in the mind of the performer. During the time the men are thus 
engaged, a native prepares a blazing fire, and otiiers employ themselves in 
cutting branches and gathering sticks and leaves, making a heap, so that the 
fire may be quickly and conveniently fed during the ceremonies, and without 
occasioning unseemly interruptions. As the fiames leap up and the light 
flashes through the trees, the dancers may be seen emerging from their retreat. 
They wear boughs around their legs, just above the ankles, and a sort of apron 
made of dressed skins. They form themselves into groups as they wait for the 
signal to commence their feats of jumping and dancing. The women who have 
to act as musicians are seated at some little distance from the fire, arranged in 

painted aU oyer in small white elides. From the top of this projected a thin stick with a lai^ toft 
of feathers at the end to represent the head, and sticks were stuck out lateraUy from the sides for 
the arms, terminating in tufts of feathers stained red to represent the hands. From the front a 
small stick ahout six inches long was projected, ending with a thick knob formed of grass, round 
which a piece of old cloth was tied. This was painted white, and represented the navel. The figure 
was about eight feet long, and was eyidently intended to symbolise a man. This figure was carried 
for some time in the dance. Subsequently there appeared in its place two standards made of poles 
and borne by two persons. The standards again were abandoned, and the men advanced with their 
spears. Eyre believed that these dances and the image and the standards had some connection with 
their superstitions, and that the figure was regarded in the light of a chann.*Jbicnia2f o/Expeditioiu 
0/ DUcowry into Central Aus^aUa^ vol. n., pp. 286-6. 


a horseshoe-shaped line. They are quite naked^ and each holds on her knees 
an opossum rug, neatly folded up and stretched tightly, skin outwards. The 
leader appears in the ordinary costume of a native. He wears his opossum rug, 
and is not painted or otherwise decorated. He carries a corrobboree-stick in 
each hand. His station is between the group of women and the fire. When 
all things are prepared, he advances carelessly towards the women, making a 
droning sound as he walks, and suddenly strikes his two sticks together, which 
is the signal for the performers to come forward. These arrange themselves in 
a straight line, and then there is a pause. The leader eyes the line attentively, 
and, if all of them are present, he commences to beat his sticks together ; the 
performers strike their sticks in time with the leader, and the grand dance 
commences. The time kept by the performers and the women who beat the 
opossum skins — ^which are the only drums they possess — and the exactness with 
which all the movements are conducted, are astonishing. The dancers, acting 
strictly in concert, put themselves into all kinds of postures, moving sideways, 
advancing slightly, retreating, extending their limbs, and anon standing straight 
in line. The leader, all this time, is not idle. He beats his sticks vigorously, 
and keeps up the nasal drone, rabing his voice occasionally as he takes a few 
steps to and fro, now turning his face towards the dancers and now towards 
the women. As he faces the women, they raise their voices in song. After 
posturing for some time, and getting heated with their exertions, the chief 
performers become violent ; they hasten their movements in obedience to the 
more rapid beating of the leader's sticks ; they shake themselves, and jump to 
an incredible height, and at last, each taking a deep inspiration and inflating 
his lungs, utters a loud, shrill noise. The sound, so accurate is the time, appears 
to come from one mouth. This is the signal for retreat. Without any hint from 
the leader, but in this instance in obedience to their own instinct, probably 
feeling that they have done enough for the time, they precipitately flee to the 
shelter of their bushes, where they rest for a short period. When they re-appear, 
they arrange themselves in a curved line, and go through the same strange antics 
as before, with such variations as may have been agreed upon. The women 
remain seated in their places, beating time with their hands on their rugs, and 
singing occasionally as the leader turns towards them. The singing of the 
women adds much to the delight of the natives, and it certainly tends to soften 
what may be regarded as rather a harsh entertainment. The women at times 
raise their voices to the loudest pitch, and again sink them so low as scarcely 
to be heard. 

The men and women who are not engaged in the ceremony form groups at 
some distance away, and watch the proceedings with the greatest interest. The 
women sit with their rugs on their knees, and the men stand or sit, their 
spears being stuck in the ground or lying by their sides. The spectators are 
invariably greatly delighted with the entertainment. The women keep beating 
their rugs in time to the music, and the men talk in low voices, criticising the 
performance, and generally praising the dancers. One tall black has imposed 
upon him the duty of keeping the spectators in their proper places. K any 
should encroach on the space appropriated to the corrobboree, this black would 


thrust them back. This man knows that he has authority^ and he takes care to 
let all people know that he means to exercise it. 

When the dancers have sufficiently exercised themselves^ when they have 
gone through all the evolutions that are possible to them, having regard to the 
kind of dance in which they are engaged, they suddenly change their line ; they 
mingle together for a moment, then form in lines four deep, the front men 
quickly separate, and those behind advance, and in this way they move towards 
the women. At this moment they appear to be a confused mass of bodies, so 
jumbled together as to cause alarm to white spectators, who cannot believe that 
in the rapid movements of their sticks they will not break each other's heads. 
But the whole is concerted, and is a part of the machine-like arrangement of 
the dance. They shout, they stamp and jump ; the women beat their opossum 
skins louder and louder, singing to the utmost pitch of their voices ; and at last 
the leader gives a heavy stroke with his sticks, which at that moment are held 
high over his head, and the dancers disappear ; the women take up their rugs 
and repair to their miams, and the dance is done. The men are much exhausted 
after their exertions, and are glad to seek repose. 

Mr. Thomas states that a grand corrobboree, formed of the people of four 
tribes, was held many years ago on the ground now occupied by the buildings 
of the Supreme Court in Melbourne. One of the dancers was speared while in 
the act of dancing, whether by accident or design is not known ; and afterwards 
the men were carefal to stidc their spears in the ground or lay them by their 
sides during the performance of the corrobboree. They did this to show that 
spear-throwing was not to be permitted at such ceremonies. 

William Buckley gives an account of a corrobboree where men and women 
and boys and girls were engaged in dancing. He says : — 

''At last all the women came out naked — Shaving taken off their skin rugs, 
which they carried in their hands. I was then brought out firom the hut by the 
two men, the women surrounding me. I expected to be thrown immediately 
into the flames ; but the women having seated themselves by the fire, the men 
joined the assemblage armed with clubs more than two feet long; having 
painted themselves with pipeclay, which abounds on the banktf of the lake. 
They had run streaks of it round the eyes, one down each cheek, others along 
the forehead down to the tip of the nose, other streaks meeting at the chin, 
others from the middle of the body down each leg ; so that altogether they made 
a most horrifying appearance, standing round and about the blazing night fire. 
The women kept their rugs rolled tight up, after which they stretched them 
between the knees, each forming a sort of drum. These they beat with their 
hands, as if keeping time with one of the men who was seated in front of them 
singing. Presently the men came up in a kind of close column, they also beat* 
ing time with their sticks, by knocking them one' against the other, making 
altogether a frightftd noise. The man seated in front appeared to be the leader 
of the orchestra, or master of the band — indeed I may say master of the 
ceremonies generally. He marched the whole mob, men and women, boys 
and girls, backwards and forwards at his pleasure, directing the singing and 
dancing, with the greatest decision and air of authority. This scene must have 



lasted at least three honrs^ when, as a wind-up, they gave three tremendoas 
shouts, at the same time pointing to the sky witli their sticks ; they each shook 
me heartily by the hand, again beating their breasts, as a token of friend- 

" The corrobboree," says the Bev. Mr. Bulmer, a Missionary at Lake Tyers, 
in Oippsland, ^' is a simple afiTair. The tune is the best part of it. In fact the 
tune is the chief feature, the poetry being generally poor. The song which made 
a great stir at the last corrobboree I witnessed was composed of about five words. 
It was of a language I did not understand, and indeed the blacks themselves 
did not understand it ; but that did not matter to them. All they desired was 
the tune and the figure of the dance. The words were as follows : — 


Tho Wilpon 


The sound of gra was carried on to a great length, while all the men made a 
very graceful bend of the body, and thus it was repeated at pleasure. In the 
corrobboree the blacks sometimes use their legs as in a regular dance, always 
keeping time remarkably well. At other times they only bend their bodies in a 
very graceful way. When the dance consists in using the legs freely, then, as a 
rule, they never use any particular stick, but cany in the hand a boomerang or a 
tomahawk, as in a war-dance ; but when they present themselves in figure only 
bringing the body into play, they mostly have something in the shape of a sticky 
which it is presumed belongs to that particular kind of dance. Sometimes the 
stick is held in the left hand, to support the performer while he sways his body 
backwards and forwards. At each forward movement he strikes the stick in his 
left hand either with a bough or with another stick. It is astonishing to see 
with what soldier-like regularity the body of each man bends to the time. On 
certain occasions, when the legs have been mostly exercised in the dance, some 
of the men would assist the women in the singing, and would use their sticks 
in beating time." 

The corrobboree-dance appears to be of a very similar character in all parts 
of the island-continent. Mr. Gideon S. Lang gives a very amusing description 
of a grand corrobboree at which he was present, in the Maranoa district. There 
were about five hundred natives assembled, and the dance was performed in an 
open glade, about two hundred yards in length and breadth, narrowing towards 
the south end, and surrounded by a belt of rather thick timber. Across the 
south end sat the orchestra, consisting of nearly one hundred women, and led 
by a well-known native named Eaglehawk. " The leader," says Mr. Lang, 
^^ chanted a description of the scenes as they passed, accompanied by the women, 
their voices continuously repeating what seemed to be the same words, while 
they beat time by striking with a stick a quantity of earth, tightly rolled up in 
a piece of cloth or opossum rug. The moon shone brightly, lighting up the 
stage and the tops of the trees, but casting a deep shadow below. This shadow 
however, was again relieved by several large fires on each side of the stage, 
leaving a clear view to Eaglehawk and the orchestra, behind whom stood Uie 


spectators, the whites being in the centre. The first act of the corrobboree was 
the representation of a herd of cattle, feeding out of the forest, and camping on 
the plain, the black performers being painted accordingly. The imitation was 
most skilfiil, the action and attitude of eyery individual member of the entire 
herd being ludicrously exact. Some lay down and chewed the cud, others stood 
scratching themselves with hind feet or horns, licking themselves or their 
calves ; several rubbing their heads against each other in bucolic firiendliness. 
This having lasted for some time, scene the second conmienced. A party of 
blacks was seen creeping towards the cattle, taking all the usual precautions, 
such as keeping to windward, in order to prevent the herd from being alarmed. 
They got up close to the cattle at last, and speared two head, to the intense 
delight of the black spectators, who applauded rapturously. The hunters next 
went through the various operations of skinning, cutting up, and carrying away 
the pieces, the whole process being carried out with the most minute exactness. 
Scene the third commenced with the sound of horses galloping through the 
timber, followed by the appearance of a party of whites on horseback, remark- 
ably well got up. The face was painted whity-brown, with an imitation of the 
cabbage-tree hat; the bodies were painted, some blue and others red, to represent 
the shirts : below the waist was a resemblance of the moleskin trousers, the legs 
being covered with reeds, tied all round, to imitate the hide leggings worn in 
that district as a protection against the brigalow scrub. These manufactured 
whites at once wheeled to the right, fired, and drove the blacks before them. The 
latter soon rallied, however, and a desperate fight ensued, the blacks extending 
their flanks, and driving back the whites. The fictitious white men bit the 
cartridges, put on the caps, and went through all the forms of loading, firing, 
wheeling their horses, assisting each other, &c., with an exactness which proved 
personal observation. The native spectators groaned whenever a blackfellow 
fell, but cheered lustily when a white bit the dust ; and at length, after the 
ground had been fought over and over again, the whites were ignominiously 
driven from the field, amidst the frantic delight of the natives, while Eaglehawk 
worked himself into such a violent state of excitement that at one time the play 
seemed likely to terminate in a real and deadly fight." * 

Major (Sir Thomas) Mitchell was entertained by the natives with a corrob- 
boree — ^*' their universal and highly original dance." Sir Thomas speaks in 
glowing terms of their movements and of the general character of the picture 
presented by the warriors in their forest home. '^ They dance to beaten time, 
accompanied by a song (to this end they stretch a skin very tight over the 
knees, and thus may be said to use the tympanum in its rudest form). • • . 
The surrounding darkness seems necessary to the effect of the whole, all these 
dances being more or less dramatic — the painted figures coming forward in 
mystic order from the obscurity of the background, while the singers and beaters 
of time are invisible — ^have a highly theatrical effect. Each dance seems most 
tasteftdly progressive, the movement being at first slow and introduced by two 
persons, displaying the most graceftd motions both of arms and legs, while 

* The Aborigines of Auttralia, by Gideon S. Lang, Eeq., 1865. 


others one by one drop in, nntil each imperoeptibly warms into the truly savage 
attitude of the ' corrobboree jump ; ' the legs striding to the utmost, the head 
turned over one shoulder ; the eyes glaring, and fixed with savage energy in 
one direction; the arms raised and inclined towards the head; the hands 
usually grasping waddies, boomerangs, or other warlike weapons. The jump 
now keeps time with each beat, and ai^ each leap the dancer takes six inches 
to one side, all being in a connected line led by the first dancer. The line is 
doubled or tripled according to space and numbers, and this gives great effect ; 
for when the first line jumps to the left^ the second jumps to the rights the 
third to the left again, and so on until the action requires due intensity, when 
all simultaneously and suddenly stop." * 

In describing a corrobboree performed when certain young men of the 
Yarra-Hapinni tribe (Macleay Biver) were ^^ made young men," Mr. Hodgkin- 
son says that the dance on such occasions is of a much more solemn character 
than ordinary, and that the performers paint themselves elaborately, even to the 
toes. They cover their heads with the snowy down of the white cockatoo, and 
Irhen the light of the fires flashed upon them they appeared to be adorned with 
white wigs. They carried their boomerangs, which were also elaborately painted 
for the occasion. They seemed to have far excelled any of the natives of the 
south in their decorations, and not to have come short of them either in their 
evolutions. ^^ They displayed," says Mr. Hodgkinson, ^' a degree of flexibility 
in their limbs which might have created the envy of many a pantomimic 
artist." t 

Amongst the Narrinyeri (Lakes Alexandrina, Albert, and Coorong, and the 
Lower Murray Biver) ^^ there are many kinds of corrobborees, but the main 
thing in all of them is the song and dance. Skin rugs are rolled up tightly, 
and beaten by the fist, as they lie in front of the beater, who squats on the 
ground. These are called planggiy and the drumming is called plangkumhalin. 
The men knock two waddies together ; these are called tartengkj and this prac- 
tice is called tartembarrin. By these means they beat time to the song or chant. 
Li most ringbalin only the men dance ; the women sit on the ground and sing. 
The songs are sometimes harmless, and the dances not indecent ; but at other 
times the songs will consist of the vilest obscenity. I have seen dances which 
were the most disgusting displays of obscene gesture possible to be imagined, 
and although I stood in the dark alone, and nobody knew that I was there, I felt 
ashamed to look upon such abominations. There are also war-dances. I have 
felt the ground almost tremble with the measured tramp of some hundreds of 
excited men just before a fight. The dances of the women are very immodest 
and lewd. Hie men sit and sing, and the women dance. In Cobbin's Family 
Bible is a picture, at Luke vii. 32, of the dance of Egyptian women. If it had 
been drawn for a dance of Narrinyeri women, it could not have been more exact. 
The corrobboree of the natives is not necessarily a religious observance ; there 

• Three ExpediUone into the Inlenor of Eaetem AtutraUa, by Major T. L. Mitchell, F.G,S., Ac^ 
1638, TOl. II., p. 5. 

t Australia^ from Port Macquarie to MoreUm Bay, hj Clement Hodgkinaon, 1845. 


is nothmg of worship connected with it. It is used as a charm to frighten away 
disease^ and also in some ceremonies^ but its real character is only that of a song 
and a dance." 

Mr. Taplin says that it is exceedingly difficult to get a corrobboree song^ 
which consists principally of words descriptive of incidents of travel, or hunt- 
ing, or war. He gives, however, one native song in his pamphlet : — 

'^ Puntin Narrinyerar, Puntin Narrinyerar, 0, 0, 0. 
Puntin Narrinyerar, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0. 
Yun terpulani ar 
Tappun an wangamar 
Tyiwewar ngoppun ar 0, 0, 0, 0. 
Puntin Narrinyerar," &c. 

It is thus translated by Mr. Taplin : — " The Narrinyeri are coming ; soon they 
will appear, carrying kangaroos ; quickly they are walking." * 

A lively picture of a corrobboree which was held in New South Wales some 
twenty-five years ago is furnished by Lieut.-Col. Mundy. The preliminaries 
were not different from those already described, and the various performers 
took their stations and acted much in the same way as in a grand dance in 
Victoria ; but the graphic description of the behaviour of the natives in the 
war-dsmce, and when imitating the dingo, kangaroo, and emu, is worthy of 
quotation : — " The first performance was a war-danoe, wherein a variety of 
complicated evolutions and savage antics were gone through, accompanied by 
a brandishing of clubs, spears, boomerangs, and shields. Suddenly the crowd 
divided into two parties, and after a chorus of deafening yells and fierce 
exhortations, as if for the purpose of adding to their own and each other's 
excitement, they rushed together in close fight. One division, shortly giving 
way, was driven from the field and pursued into the dark void, where roars and 
groans, and the sound of blows, left but little to be imagined on the score of a 
bloody massacre. Presently the whole corps re-appeared close to the fire, and, 
having deployed into two lines and ^proved distance' (as it is called in the 
sword exercise), the time of the music was changed, and a slow measure was 
commenced by the dancers, every step being enforced by a heavy stamp and a 
noise like a pavior's grunt. As the drum waxed faster, so did the dance, until 
at length the movements were as rapid as the human frame could possibly 
endure. At some passages they all sprang into the air a wonderful height, and, 
as their feet again touched the ground with the legs wide astride, the muscles 
of the thighs were set a quivering in a singular manner, and the straight white 
lines on the limbs being thus put in oscillation, each stripe for the moment 
became a writhing serpent, while the air was filled with loud hissings. 
. • . The most amusing part of the ceremony was imitations of the dingo, 
kangaroo, and emu. When all were springing together in emulation of a scared 
troop of their own marsupial brutes, nothing could be more laughable, nor a 
more ingenious piece of mimicry. As is usual in savage dances, the time was 
kept with an accuracy never at fault The men were tall and 

* The Narrinyeri^ bj the Ber. Geo. Taplin, 1874. 


straight as their own spears, many of them nearly as thin, but all surprisingly 
active. Like most blacks, they were well chested and shouldered, but dispro- 
portionately slight below the knee." * 

In the narrative of their overland expedition firom Bockhampton to Cape 
York, Northern Queensland (1867), the Messrs. Jardine state that at a corrobboree 
held near Newcastle Bay they observed that the natives used two large drums, 
named Waropa^ or Burrorburrd. These drums are obtained by barter or by 
war from the islanders of Torres Straits, who frequently visit the continent. 
'^ The drum," adds the Messrs. Jardine, ^^ is neatly made of a solid piece of 
wood, scooped out, in shape Uke an elongated dice-box. One end is covered 
with the skin of a snake or iguana, the other being left open. When this 
instrument is played upon by a muscular and excited ^ nigger,' a music results 
which seems to please him according to its intensity. Keeping time with these, 
and aiding with their voices, they keep up their wild dance, varying the chant 
with the peculiar b-r-r-r-r-r-r-o-o of the Australian savage (a sound made by 
blubbering his thick lips over his closed teeth), and giving to their outstretched 
knees the nervous tremor peculiar to the corrobboree." t 

I had one of these drums in my possession. It was obtained in New 
Guinea. It was made from a solid piece of very dark — nearly black — wood, 
and rather richly ornamented with carved figures and lines. It had been 
scooped out so as to leave only a thin shell. The part covered by skin was 
round, and the other end rudely carved in the form of the head of a reptile — 
perhaps an iguana. It was a beautiful specimen of native art. The natives of 
Australia, when in their natural state, are, as a rule, slow to avail themselves 
of new inventions, but the inhabitants of Cape York are indebted to the people 
of New Guinea for more important works of art than the Waropa; and, taught 
by experience, seem to adopt foreign customs with a faciUty not generally 
observed elsewhere. Anything originating with their own people is welcomed 
by the natives everywhere, but that which is foreign is usually regarded with 

The dances of the females are refbrred to in another part of this work. 

The dances described in the Bev. J. G. Wood's work are only variations of 
the corrobboree, bat they are very interesting. In the Palti and other dances 
it is said that the natives use red paint as well as white in decorating their 
persons ; and in the Pedeku dance of the Moorundi natives they paint their 
bodies with stripes of red-ochre only. 

In the canoe-dance the bodies are painted with white and red ochre, and 
sticks are used to represent the paddles. The men station themselves in two 
lines, each with a stick across his back, which is held by the arms, and they 
move their feet alternately to the tune of the song composed for the ceremony. 
At a given signal they all bring their sticks to the front, and hold them as they 

• Our AiUipodeB, by Lient.-Col. Mnndy, pp. 45-6. 

t Macgilliyraj giyes a figure of the dmm used bj the i>eople of the Tillage of TauaL It is a 
hollow cylinder of palm* wood, two feet and a half in length and four inches in diameter. One end 
is coYcred orer with the skin of a large UxBxd.^NarraHve of the Vmfftge of H,M,S, RtUttenKike, 
1852, Tol. I., p. 260. 


do paddles^ swaying themselves in regolar time^ as if they were paddling in one 
of their light canoes. 

These dances and these modes of decoration are unknown, as far as I am 
aware, to the natives of Victoria. 

At a grand corrobboree as many as fonr hundred natives assemble ; and, of 
course, it is necessary to provide food for these, and to maintain order. These 
matters are attended to by the council, composed of old men, who would suffer 
in the estimation of the warriors if they proved unequal to their responsi- 

I have been carefid to select descriptions of dances from the writings of 
trustworthy travellers ; and to exhibit, as far as practicable, all the peculiarities 
which mark these highly original and dramatic entertainments. No one 
person — ^how extensive soever his experience might be — could gather all that 
is remarkable in such ceremonies. He might witness dances in all parts of 
Australia, and yet fail to note much that is important. It is only from the 
observations of many witnesses that we can gather all the aspects of even 
common objects. The impressions made upon different minds are reflected in 
the extracts I have given, and the reader cannot fail to have presented to him 
an exact picture of the oldest form of the drama that is now extant. The 
natives furnish, in these exhibitions, examples of tragedy, tragi-comedy, comedy, 
and farce ; and the skill they evince in producing their pieces — all of their own 
composition, and not seldom, of late years, representations of scenes they have 
witnessed when in contact with the whites — sufficiently prove that in mimicry 
and in invention they are not surpassed by any race. Their music is not good, 
but they have not arrived at that stage at which good music is possible. 

These dances, performed nearly always at night, and not seldom when the 
light of the moon is sufficient to enable a European to read a book ; the bright 
fires, when there is no moon ; the weird figures ; the shadows cast by the trees 
which encircle the space appropriated to the dancers ; the sounds produced by 
the beating of the rugs ; the singing, now shrill and piercing, now low and soft; 
the rattling of the sticks and weapons as the movements are hastened ; the 
hisses and hoarse grunts of the performers, and the deep, smothered voices of 
the black spectators — ^make altogether a picture which can be witnessed only in 
Australia, and which leaves on the mind of the cultivated European an impres- 
sion which can never be effaced. 

The natives appear to have resorted to fighting and dancing at certain 
seasons, in order to break the dreary monotony of their lives ; and in seeking 
such relief they but followed the practices of other races. 

The grand war-dance of the New Zealanders, and the propitiatory dances to 
Hindoo deities as practised in India, closely resemble in the movements of the 
dancers, the chants, the beating of drums, and the striking together of sticks 
to keep time, the regulated dances of the natives of Australia. 

The black drum ( Waropfi) of New Guinea, the tom-tom of the East Indies, 
and the drum of the European, are undoubtedly improvements on the tightly- 
folded opossum skin of the Australian; but the latter, as suggested by Sir 
Thomas MitcheU, gives the first hint of the ancient kettle-drum {ji\aAvov). 


The old Brahmin who beats time with a piece of bamboo for a danoe in front 
of a pagoda is but an imitator of practices followed in Australia perhaps before 
the Aryan race had a footing in the tract drained hj the Ghmges ; and it is not 
unreasonable, but just^ to suppose that the makers of the flint implements found 
so abundantly in all parts of the world had the same dances, similar songs^ and 
the like dramatic exhibitions as those described in this work. 

Games and Amusemxnts. 

The adult natives were seldom without employment — ^their wants being 
many — ^but they found time too for amusements. Some of their games were 
not unlike those which find favor amongst Europeans. The Tnarvngrook, or 
game of ball, for instance, is thus described by the late Mr. Thomas. The men 
and boys joyfully assemble when this game is to be played. One makes a ball 
of opossum skin, or the like, of good size, somewhat elastic, but firm and strong. 
It is given to tiie foremost player or to some one of mark who is chosen to 
commence the game. He does not throw it as a white man might do, but drops 
it and at the same time kicks it with his foot, using the instep for that purpose. 
It is thrown high into the air, and there is a rush to secure it — such a rush as 
is seen commonly at foot-ball matches amongst our own people. The tallest 
men, and those who are able to spring to a great height, have the best chances 
in this game. Some of them will leap as high as five feet or more from the 
ground to catch the ball. The person who secures the ball kicks it again ; and 
again a scramble ensues. This continues for hours, and the natives never seem 
to tire of the exercise. 

I have seen the natives at Coranderrk amusing themselves in this manner 
very often, and their skill and activity were surprising. It is truly a native 
game. The ball, I believe, is often made of twine formed of the twisted hair 
of the opossum. It is elastic and light, and well suited to be kicked from the 
instep, as the natives use it.* 

The young amongst the males derive much pleasure from the use of an 

instrument named Per-bo^e^ 
gan. A stick about eighteen 
inches in length is neatly pared. 
At one end is tied a cord made 
of the sinews of the tail of the 
kangaroo, and to this is fixed a 
small piece of bark or wood of 
the shape of a fish, about five 
inches in length. — (Fig. 17.) 
The stick is held in the right 
hand, and the fish-shaped piece 
f »* ^- ^^ of wood is whirled rapidly over 

* The TongftiiB excel in ball pla^, and hare a game which consiste in playing with fire baUa^ 
which are thrown from one hand to the other, so as to keep foor balls always in the air. — Tkt 
Naiwrol Binary of Man. Ber. J. G. Wood, toI. n., p. 839. 



the head of the player. This action prodnoes a lond noise^ and when the noise 
is loudest, the resnlt of great effort, the player gives the instrument a sudden 
turn, causing it to make a report as loud as the crack of a stockman's whip. 
On a quiet night in the forest, the sound of this instrument may be heard at a 
distance of two miles or more. Mr. Thomas has heard the sounds at this 
distance when the soft wind has been blowing from the player to the place 
where he was stationed.* 

The piece of bark or wood is often ornamented with such lines as are carved 
on the shields and other weapons. 

Tur-^ttir^er-^in, Wcar-rokr^nnder'^neitj or Wark-em-der-^j is the name of 
an athletic game in which the most skilftil, or pei^haps the strongest, proves the 
victor. When this pastime is indulged in — and it is only in fine weather that 
it is thought of — ^the old men and old women, with the children, seat themselves 
around some smooth expanse of grass. The young men — the competitors — 
break into groups, and place themselves opposite to each other. By this 
action they express their readiness to take part in the encounters that are to 
follow. After the competitors have been seated for a little time, one of the 
strongest amongst them rises, grasps a handful of dust or ashes, and throws it 
towards one opposite with whom he thinks he may measure his strength. He 
then sits down. This is a challenge : and usually the native towards whom the 
dust is thrown rises and accepts the challenge, and throws dust towards the 
challenger. Then all the men of the two groups rise and throw dust, or the 
ashes of the dead fires, around them. There is a pause, and during the time of 
the pause the two men who are to engage in confiict rub their hands with ashes, 
and each with his hands ftdl of ashes or dust rushes violently forward, and the 
wrestling commences. The men place their hands on each other's shoulders ; 
they are naked ; their bodies have been well rubbed with the ashes of the dead 
fires, and, holding fast, moving hither and thither, thrusting and pulling, they 
struggle for the mastery. It is often long before one falls to the ground ; but 
when he has &llen, the successful wrestler returns rapidly to his place, often so 
much exhausted by his efforts that he is unable to speak. This continues until 
all the wrestlers are tired. There is fair-play in all these encounters, and any 
departure from the recognised mode of procedure would be severely condemned 
by all. 

The old men and others not engaged in the sport sit by, paying marked 
attention to aU the movements of the wrestlers, and as one after another is 
victorious, they raise shouts in his praise. 

The young amongst the males are taught all the arts of this kind of wrest- 
ling at an early age, and they take much pleasure in the exercise. It is neces- 
sary to the safety of an Aboriginal, who has often to trust to his strength and 
skill in single-handed encounters with members of strange tribes, to be able to 
act well in such exercises. What he has learnt in peaceftQ wrestlings by the 
camp-fire is not seldom required for the preservation of his life in war, or in his 
various secret expeditions. 

• An instmment tiiDilar to this if used bj the natirei of the Macleaj BiTer, and if mentioned 
bj Mr. Hodgkinfon. It feems to be a modification of the WiUtma, 

2 A 


I have referred in another place to other amnsementfl of the natiyefl. The 
throwing of the Wanguimj the Wee-weetj and the hurling of spears at a disc of 
bark in the game named Per-re-ier-itj served to amuse and at the same time 
to instruct the younger male members of a tribe. By these exercises emulation 
was aroused, the older persons of the tribe in such competitions had the oppor- 
tunity of imparting knowledge as to the uses of the several weapons and 
instruments employed ; and while there was amusement and laughter, there was, 
at the same time, in all such games, a kind of control, and an effort to preserve 
and maintain discipline — not without effect in the after-life of those who 
enjoyed these advantages of gaining instruction from the old warriors. Each 
movement of the young men was watched with jealous eyes by every member of 
the tribe who was permitted to be present at these trials of skill. 

The females never play the game of Per-re-ber-itj or any other game in 
which weapons are used. Usually, they are never suffered, even in play, to use 
the spear or to handle it. 

The young women, however, have games of their own, and that mostly in 
favor is dancing. When in their native state, the girls amused themselves 
with dances most commonly in the spring and autumn. Mr. Thomas observed 
that on many occasions when engaged in the dance the young girls had woven 
in their hair and on their wrists as bracelets wild flowers gathered from trees 
and shrubs ; but whether this had been learnt from the Europeans or was an 
ancient native custom is not known. The girls in these dances selected a 
leader, and pursued the sport with a regularity and a regard to form which 
surprised Mr. Thomas. The old people looked on, and the parents were happy 
and contented when they witnessed ezpertness and skill in these exercises of 
their children. 

The females have also a game of ball, but it is not played in the same 
manner as that of the males, above described. One throws the ball, and another 
catches it. The young children too, at times, find much amusement in getting 
together and beating the opossum rugs and chanting or singing, in imitation of 
the lubras who perform in the corrobboree. Their sweet voices, however, con- 
trast remarkably with the generally harsher tones of the old women.* 

The old men and the old women devoted their evenings to conversation — 
and strange stories were told of phantoms and dim forms that had affrighted 
them in their journeys and when camping. The priests lost no opportunity of 
exercising and extending their influence, and many a night a camp was kept 
awake by the vagaries of some sorcerer. He would pretend to fly ; he would 
pretend to bring wild blackfellows to the camp, who would make hideous noises 

* Bonce states that the natires often amused themselres with a pnzxle. The string used in the 
sport was named Kudgi-kuJgik, and was made of the fibre of a tree (^Sida putckeUa), commonly 
found on the banks of the mountain streams, as well as, in some places, on the banks of the Yarra. 
The puzzle was played between two persons, and required two pairs of hands, and much resembled 
the game of ** cat's cmdit*'-^Auitratanatie Remnueenees, by Daniel Bunco, p. 75. 

The game of ** cat's cradle " is played by the Dyaks of Bomea They are aoqusinted with aU 
the mysteries of the English modification of the game, and produce a number of additional changes 
from the string.— 7%e Natural Hutanf iff Man. Ber. J. O. Wood, toL n., p. 490. 

There were probably some other games known to the natires of Victoria respecting which no 
account has been preserred. 


and terrify the natives ; * he wonld pretend that some other sorcerer was intent 
on inflicting injuries on a member of the tribe^ and with him he would wage 
battle ; he would pretend that he had discovered signs of sickness in a warrior, 
and forthwith that man was doomed to torments, suggested by the priest for his 
cure, the infliction of which provoked yells that were heard for long distances 
through the forest. 

Those who had returned firom the hunt narrated their exploits as they sat by 
the camp-fires. The mode in which they had tracked and finally speared the 
kangaroo was set forth ; what they had seen in the day's journey ; how the water 
had Mien or increased in some well-known reach of a creek ; whether roots 
were plentiful or not in certain areas ; whether traces of strange blackfellows 
had been observed — these, and all the domestic affairs of the people, the birth 
of children, the betrothals arranged, the marriages proposed, the fights that 
were to be anticipated, the next movements of the party, the re-arrangement of 
nrillams consequent on new domestic ties being formed or destroyed — all these 
subjects kept the people in lively chatter until the embers of the fires spread 
over the camps the rich red lights of burning woods that no longer sent forth 
flame ; and then all was hushed, and the warriors sank into profound sleep — 
sleep so profound that a blow of a club only would waken some of them, f 

The Bev. Mr. Bulmer gives the following information respecting the games 
of the natives of Victoria. He says : — " The ball with which they play is named 
Dirlk. The material of which it is made is suggested by the name. It is part 
of the organs of an 'old man' kangaroo, blown out. The game is played by 
the ball being thrown, dr kicked up with the foot. Whoever catches the ball 
oftenest, wins the game." He adds : — ''The blacks often amuse themselves by 
exhibiting their skill in wrestling ; and they had a game like our ' Hide and 
seek.' One hid himself; and gave a signal by whistling. The fun, of course, 
was to find out, from the direction of the sound, where the hidden person was. 
They used also to play at digging out a wombat. A man or a boy got into a 
hole, and the amusement consisted in digging him out." They would some- 
times play a game called Brajerack (the wild blackfeUow). One man would be 
the " wild black," and he would endeavour to catch the other players who were 

•— *- ; rr-: : ' ' ' ■ ■ 

* It waa a flnii belief of the Aborigines of the Yam and the Coast tribes that there were tribes 
of Aborigines rery different from themselTes in the monntainons parts of the colony ; and it is certain 
that the men of Oippsland and tl^ose My\fkg on the highlands at the sonrces of the RiYor Marrayy 
and near the Great Dividing Kange, were fiercer and bolder than the men living in the lowlands. 
Mr. H. B. Lane says that the ^'Dargo tribe, as described by BIr. Thomaji liitohell, a Local Guardian, 
was of a fiercer disposition an4 of a more ferocioiiis t^pect than those belonging to the Murray, 
upon whom they were i<i the habit (but nc^ recently) of making pr^tory raids." 

It seems, therefore, that the physical character of the country is as influential in Australia in 
modifying the habits of the people as In Europe and Asia ; but in stating this, one must not loee 
light of the fact that, whereas in Asia the hill tribes, as a rule, are the remnants of the Aboriginal 
Inhabitants who have beep driven by intrudin|f racea to remote retreats, they are in Australia 
members of the same gr^at family — similar in speech, of like physique, and possessing habits and 
traditions identical with those of the tribes dwelling on the coast. 

f Collins observed that aU the natives slept soundly. In one case, of many known to Collins 
of the extreme soundness with which they sleep, a murderer first took a sleeping infant firom the 
arms of the father whom he was about to deprire of existenoe-^ila ^ccomiU i^ (As English CoUmjf 
m Nwf South WaUSf by Lieut-Col. CoUioi, 1804, p. 861. 



hidden from him. They had often sham fights with clubs and shields made of 
bark. " In this way," says Mr. Bulmer, " they would amuse themselves all 
the year round, but more especially in the summer, when food was plentiful. 
There is very little fun amongst the natives unless the larder is well stored." 

The Murray blacks had similar games. Mr. Bulmer says he has seen their 
wrestling matches. One man would stand out and challenge his fellows by 
throwing dust in the air. He would stand thus until overthrown, and then 
another would take his place. The game, however, which seemed to afford the 
most amusement to the natives was the endeavour to snatch a bunch of emu's 
feathers from the hand of one who held them. All their games were of this 
simple description. Mr. Bulmer says that they had a sort of war-dance that 
was very amusing. The blacks sat in a large circle, and one of the old 
men stood out fully equipped for a fight, and went through the form of fighting 
an imagiaary enemy ; and the earnestness of the old man as he urged his 
imaginary enemy to hit him, his motions as he made-believe to receive a blow, 
and his rush upon the £be (whom, of course, he conquered), were highly 
diverting. The object of the exhibition was to instruct the youths in the arts 
cultivated by warriors ; and no feint, or cunning stroke, or posture of defence 
was omitted. 

Mr. Taplin says the amusements of the Narrinyeri ''have always consisted 
in practising those arts which were necessary to get a living. They havQ 
practised spear and boomerang throwing in order to gain expertness, so as 
to get game with more certainty. They showed great dexterity in the use of 
the reed-spear, or kaiiey the shaft of which is a stout reed, and the point, about 
a foot long, of hard and heavy wood. It is thrown with a taralyey or throwing^ 
stick. I have known a man killed by one of these spears at ninety yards, and 
the weapon passed through his bark shield too. I have known one pass 
through a thick shield, and take a man's eye out. The principal amusement 
of youths formerly consisted in practising spear-throwing. The Narrinyeri 
have a game at ball. A number of men stand round, and one pitches the ball 
to another on the other side of the party, and those near try to catch it. The 
sport gives occasion to a great deal of wrestling and activity. Another game 
is a sort of wrestling match for the possession of a bunch of feathers." * 

Traffic amokgst the Tribes. 

Unlike the civilized and partially-civilized peoples of the earth, the natives 
of Australia have no current tokens or representatives of value, exchangeable 
for other commodities, whereby commerce is facilitated, and settlements of 
accounts are made easy. They traffic only by exchanging one article for 
another. They barter with their neighbours ; and it would seem that, as regards 
the articles in which they deal, barter is as satisfactory to them as sale would 
be. They are astute in dealing with the whites, and it may be supposed they 
exercise reasonable forethought and care when bargaining with their neigh- 
bours. The natives of some parts, however, appear to be reckless traders. 

■ * • I 

* The Narrinyeri, by the Ber. Geo. Taplin, p. 27. 


In former times, the natiyes of the Murray and Gh>nlbnm exchanged large 
bnndles of spears for pieces of greenstone (Diorite), obtained from a native 
quarry at Mount William, near Lancefield. The stones were carried by the 
men in their opossum-skin cloaks. "The quarry is extensive, and hundreds of 
tons of stone have been taken from it.* 

In the narrative of William Buckley's life it is stated that it was customary 
for one tribe having an abundance of eels to exchange these for roots with some 
tribe within whose grounds roots were plentiftd. 

Mr. Peter Beveridge says that the Lower Murray natives had one or two 
men in each tribe, who were termed gtuilla nxUtow (messengers or postmen), 
whose persons were sacred. They could travel amongst other tribes with 
freedom. They carried news, and conducted all negotiations connected with 
barter— one tribe exchanging what it possessed in abundance for such things 
as were most desired, f 

The tribes on the Lower Murray, near Lake Alexandrina^ barter with those 
living on the coast. A curious sort of provision is made for this traffic, the 
object of which is to secure "perfectly trustworthy agents to transact the 
business of the tribes — agents who will not by collusion cheat their employers 
and enrich themselves. The way in which this provision is made is as follows : — 
When a man has a child bom to him, he preserves its umbilical cord, by tying 
it up in the middle of a bunch of feathers. This is called kalduke. He then 
gives this to the father of a child or children who belongs to another tribe, and 
those children are thenceforth hgiorngiampe to the child from whom the kalduke 
was procured, and that child is ngia-ngiampe to them. From that time none of 
the children to whom the kalduke was given may speak to their ngia^iampej 
or even touch or go near him ; neither must he speak to them. I know several 
persons who are thus estranged from each other, and have often seen them in 
ludicrous anxieiy to escape from touching or going near their ngiorTigianipe, 
When two individuals who are in this position with regard to each other have 
arrived at adult age, they become the agents through which their respective 
tribes carry on barter. For instance, a Mundoo blackfellow, who had a ngia-' 
nffiampe belonging to a tribe a little distance up the Murray, would be supplied 
with the particular articles — such as baskets, mats, or rugs — ^manufactured by 
the Mundoo tribes, to carry to his ngiorngiampej who, in exchange, would send 
the things made by his tribe. Thus a blackfellow — Jack Hamilton — ^who was 
speared at a fight at Teringe, once had a ngiormgiampe in the Mundoo tribe. 
While he lived on the Murray he sent spears and plongges (dubs) down to his 
agent of the Mundoo blacks, who was also supplied with mats and nets and 
rugs to send up to him, for the purpose of giving them in exchange to the tribe 
to which he belonged. The estrangement of the ngior^iampee seems to answer 

* Mr. Albert A. C. Le Sonef, MS. This quany is referred to in Mr. Ulrich'i Catalogue of JRoek 
SpedmaUf p. 21. Mr. Joseph Parker mentioos the trafflo between the Ja-jow-erong tribes and 
others in stones for tomahawks. Messengers were sent bj distant tribes to procure stones for the 
Bur-reek (tomahawk) from the Ja-jow-er-ong people. 

t A few Notes on the Dialecte^ Habits, Customs, and Mythology of the Lower Murrey Aborigines, 
by Mr. Peter Bereridge. » 


two ptiTposes. It gives secnriiy to the tribes that there will be no ooUusion 
between their agents for their own private advantage^ and also compels the two 
always to conduct the business through third parties." * 

It appears that two persons may be made ngionngiampe to each other 
temporarily. The kalduke is divided between them, and as long as they keep 
their respective portions they are estranged from each other, and may be 
appointed to act as agents. This is a very convenient arrangement. 

Mr. A. W. Howitt mentions the traffic that is carried on amongst the tribes 
of the Cooper^s Creek district. They exchange shields for girdles. Near 
Kyejerou, Mr. Howitt saw a conch-shell, which had been brought from the north 
or north-east coast. It was highly valued, and must have passed from tribe 
to tribe for a long distance — ^perhaps eight hundred or one thousand miles. 

Mr. J. McDouall Stuart says that he found, on the River Chambers (lat. 
14* 3(y S., long. 133** 25' E.), blacks in the possession of a piece of iron, which 
was used as a tomahawk. It had a large round eye, in which they had fixed a 
handle ; and the edge was about the breadth of an ordinary tomahawk. When 
hot, it had been hammered together. It had apparently been the hinge of some 
large door or other large article. The natives had ground it down, and seemed 
to know the use of it. 

At Attack Creek (lat. 18* 50' S., long. 134* 30' B.) he saw a black with a 
large sea-shell, and a spear with bamboo at one end. The sea-shell and the 
bamboo showed that the natives had communication with the searcoast. t 

The people of the Dieyerie tribe (Cooper's Creek) are great traders. Mr. 
Gkison says that ^^ their whole life is spent in bartering ; they rarely retain any 
article for long. The articles received by them in exchange one day are bartered 
away the next, whether at a profit or loss. Should any one of them, more 
shrewd than another, profit on one occasion by this traffic, he is sure immediately 
after to sacrifice his advantage, and the majority of their quarrels are caused by 
bartering or reftising to barter.'* 

The men of this tribe, when travelling for red-ochre, barter with the people 
they come in contact with. 

There is a considerable trade carried on between the natives of Cape York 
and the islanders of Torres Straits. Two gentlemen — Mr. Howe and Mr. 
Kennett — ^who had been residing for some time at Cape York, informed me that 
the Australians obtain bows and arrows by exchange. Some of the Australians, 
they thought, occasionally crossed over to New Guinea ; they certainly visit 
many of the islands and atolls ; and on one occasion Mr. Kennett himself went 
about half-way across. He told me that he was well-treated by the natives. 

The Messrs. Jardine, in referring to this subject, say that the Goomkoding 
and Gudang tribes seem to hold most communication with the islanders of Torres 
Straits, the intermixture of races being evident. Kororega words are used by 
both these tribes, and the bow and arrow are sometimes seen among them, 
having been procured from the islands. Drums are also obtained by barter 
from the people of Torres Straits. % 

* Tht Narrinytri, by the Rer. G€0. Taplin, pp. S6-6. f Sxpbrations: 1861-S, pp. 64 and 75. 

X Narrative ^f (Ae Overland Expeditkm of the Meetre, Jardine from Rockhampion to Ce^e York, 1667. 



Thb natives of Anstralia are generally described as onmiverous. There is 
scarcely any part of the country in which they cannot find food^ and there is 
nothing in the natore of food; or of substances which can by any possibility 
contribute to the maintenance of life^ that they will not eat. When driven to 
extremity by hunger, the black tightens his belt, and when overcome by thirst, 
he covers his stomach with earth; but it is not often that he is forced to adopt 
such measures. He eats of the fruits of the earth, literally, in due season, and 
he catches wild animals when he can. He understands the nature of every 
vegetable product in his district, and knows what to eat and what to avoid; 
and he is thoroughly conversant with the habits of the beasts and birds and 
fishes that are to be found within the boundaries of his domain. Every 
species of marsupial, firom the largest kangaroo to the smallest mouse ; every 
kind of bird, from the swift-footed emu to the little dicaeum that feeds on the 
berries of the loranthus; every egg that every bird lays; every reptile; 
every one of the amphibia; every fish, whether in fresh or in salt water; 
every shell-fish; and every crustacean and insect — ^he is familiar with, and 
in general knows how to procure each by the easiest and quickest method. 
From poisonous plants he is able to extract a wholesome farina, and he 
roasts roots and grinds seeds into flour. He gathers manna in the heats of 
summer. In the arid tracts he obtains water from the roots of trees ; and, 
unless the region were inhospitable indeed, he could never actually perish of 

He makes a drink that, if not intoxicating, is certainly of a character 
to exhilarate; and he chews or smokes a plant that stands in the stead of 

It is wholly impracticable to give a complete list of aU the indigenous pro- 
ducts which serve him for food, nor is it possible to describe all the methods he 
has of catching wild animals, or preparing the roots and seeds on which, in 
certain seasons, he has to depend mainly for subsistence ; but I have collected 
from numerous sources a great deal of information, much of which I trust wiU 
be usefol and interesting. 

Many of the statements relate to the practices of the natives in parts of the 
continent far distant from Victoria ; but each is calculated to throw light on the 
modes of procuring food that were usual amongst our blacks before Fort Phillip 
was colonized. 


HuiimKa Eakqaboos. 

In hunting and killing the kangaroo the natives display great skill; a com- 
plete knowledge of the habits of the animal, and often much perseyerance and 
great endurance. Kangaroos are much more nnmeroos now in many parts of 
Victoria than they were when the lands were in possession of the natives ; and 
though it may appear at present to an inhabitant of the bush that a blackfellow 
could have no difficulty in procuring a sufficient supply of this game, it was 
different when the animal was regularly hunted, when it was the prey of the wild 
dog, and when the tribes had to depend largely on it for food.* 

Several modes of taking the kangaroo were employed. When a native was 
living with his &mily in a district where kangaroos were easily found, he 
would start off at early morning, with his wives and perhaps his children 
accompanying him, and look for a feeding ground where there was some shelter. 
The women and children would not follow his footsteps closely, but keep near 
enough to invite his attention by some previously-arranged signal, as the 
movement of the hand, or a sound — as tiiat of a bird — ^if any one of them should 
see the game. The hunter himself, keenly interested in the pursuit, would be 
weU prepared for the day's sport. He would have his spears riiarpened, his 
throwing-stick in good order, and his waddy at hand. His basket, slung over 
his shoulder, would contain, as well as the throwing-stick, perhaps a knife. 
Oautiously taking his way through the bush, keeping an eye on every animate 
and inanimate olgect within the limits of his vision, moving noiselessly, he 
would at last view the kangaroos feeding in some rather open well-grassed spot. 
Having observed the direction of the wind, he would so direct his movements 
as to get to leeward of the game, and he would use all the skill he possessed to 
approach them as near as possible. He would advance a few steps, keeping his 
body in one position, and note the behaviour of the kangaroos. The creatures — 
keen-scented and quick of hearing — ^would exhibit some alarm perhaps, and the 
hunter would remain still and motionless until they again began to feed. He 
would thus advance, sheltered by bushes and trees, until within distance, and 
then his spear would be thrown. He would rarely miss his aim. As soon as 
the creature was struck, the women and children would shout with delight^ 
Bnd hasten to the assistance of the sportsman. 

* A squatter holding itations in the north-eaatem part of Yictozia inf ormi me that a station in 
his district, which at one time carried twentj thoosand sheep, but has since been neglected, and has 
now on it not more than four thousand, is oremm with kangaroos, opossams, wild cats, and wild 
dogs. Mobs (consistiBg of hundreds) of kangaroos eat the grass that should feed sheep. The mar- 
supials hare increased in a far greater degree than their natural enemj, the dingo, which lires in 
this locality a life of ease and pleasure. The run is common ground for all the wild animals of the 
neighbourhood. There they hare their abode, but from time to time tliey Tint neighbouring tracts, 
and destroy much produce the result of cultivation. The natiye dog has been almost exterminated 
in the more open parts ef Victoria; and other i^nimaU formerly his prey hare multiplied exceedingly. 
I haye seen mobs of kangaroos in the Western district so large as to defy eren an attempt to make. 
an approximation to the numbers. 

Professor McCoy referred to this subject in. his essay {lUeetU Zoology and PaiaotUology i^ Fic- 
toria) in 1866-67. 

TOOD. 185 

If the ground to leeward of the game was without coyer^ the native would 
retire to a spot where he could construct a screen of boughs^ and, with this 
before him^ he would without difficulty get within reach of his prey. 

Sometimes two men set out together for the purpose of spearing the kangaroo. 
One attracts the attention of the kangaroo by making a very slight noise^ as by 
breaking twigs or the like^ while the other approaches stealthily from an opposite 
direction until near enough to transfix the animal with his spear. 

Elangaroos are frequently taken at their watering-places. If there is con- 
venient and suitable natural shelter near a water-hole, the native conceals himself 
in the bushes, and patiently waits until he can throw his spear with a certain 
aim. If there is no shelter, he constructs a screen of boughs very artfully, and 
in such a situation as not to attract the attention of the animals when they come 
to the water. 

Another method of catching kangaroos at their water-places is described in 
a letter to me by Mr. A. F. Sullivan. The men of the Paroo make a pit, close 
to the water, and enclose a space with two wings of brush-fence. Each wing is 
from three hundred to four hundred yards in length, forming two sides of a 
triangle. When a kangaroo comes for water, the natives hunt him into the 
space between the wings, and thence into the pit, where he is easily knocked on 
the head with a waddy. 

Nets are also used for catching the kangaroo. 

On great occasions, a large number of natives assemble and form a hunting 
party. This hunt is always under the guidance of experienced persons, who 
direct the mode of procedure and assign the hunters their places. An area of 
coimtiy perhapa half a nule or more in diameter is encircled by the sportsmen, 
who, shouting and clattering their arms, gradually close in, and when the 
animals are in a narrow space they spear them, or knock them on the head with 
waddies, as they jump from one point of danger to another.* 

This method is practised both in scrubby forest tracts and also in more 
open country where there are small plains. 

They use fire at times, when they wish to take a number of animals. The 
men form a circle, and set fire to the bushes, and thus kill a great many 
kangaroos and other wild animals of the forest 

In the Port Lincoln district, the men and boys are expert in using a club 
named wirra. When the bush is on fire, and the animals are trying to escape, 
they throw the wirra with unerring dexterity, and kill both kangaroos, wallabies, 
and kangaroo-rats. 

* "These great public hunts or battues are conducted under certain rules. The proprietor of 
the land must have inyited the other natiyes, and must be present himself { for should these regulations 
be Tiolatedy a very bloody fight is certain to take place. The first spear which strikes a kangaroo 
determtMs whose property the dead animal is to be; it being no matter how slight the wound may hare 
-been ; eren if a boy threw the spear, the rule holds good ; and if the animal killed is one which, 
.by their laws, a boy is not allowed to eat, then his right passes on to his father or eldest male 
relation."— Grey, toI. n., p. 272. 

Fair-play characterises the actions of the natires as well in their amusements as in battles 
and disputes. 



The wirra is indeed a weapon of essential use to this people^ and in throw- 
ing it they have acquired a skill which is astonishing. Little boys of seven and 
eight years old, and even girls of tender age, will knock down parrots from the 
she-oak trees with this instrument. The children are taught to use it almost as 
soon as they can walk. A piece of dry sponge is rolled along the ground, and 
they are made to throw the wirra at it until they are accomplished in its use. 

Like the natives of Cooper's Creek, the people of the Port Lincoln district 
use a number of signs, unaccompanied by sound, which are of great advantage 
to them when engaged in hunting. They can, by using their hands, make 
known to their companions the animals they discover, and in what situation 
they are. They stretch out the first finger, in imitation of the leaping of a 
kaagaroo, when such an animal, quietly feeding, is in sight ; three fingers 
stretched out, the second finger a little lower than the others, is the sign for an 
emu ; when an opossum is seen, the thumb is raised ; and when the whole hand 
is extended, it is known that a fish is near. They have signs of a similar kind 
to indicate all the varieties of game.* 

In tracking the kangaroo, the native has to bring into play other qualities 
than those shown in hunting excursions of an ordinary character. He is never 
sure in these adventures that he will be successful. A hundred unforeseen 
misfortunes may rob him of his prey. The hunter himself, with his whole 
attention devoted to the pursuit, may be followed by hostile blacks who have a 
mission to kill him ; the wild dogs may cross the line, and perhaps secure the 
animal when almost worn out ; another blackfellow may spear it as it hastens 
to some water-hole to quench its thirst ; it may mingle with a mob of kangaroos, 
and the single trail may be lost ; or the animal may be of extraordinary fieetness 
and strength, and may escape the most arduous toil of the hunter ; but with all 
these difficulties in front of him, the blackfellow patiently follows the marks 
left by the beast, until success or failure causes his return to his miam. 

This mode of hunting the kangaroo '' calls out every qualification prized by 
savages — skill in tracking, endurance of hunger and thirst, unwearied bodily 
exertion, and lasting perseverance. To perform this feat, a native starts upon 
the tracks of a kangaroo, which he follows until he sights it, when it fiies 
timidly before him ; again he pursues the track, and again the animal bounds 
from him ; and this is repeated until nightfall, when the native lights his fire 
and sleeps upon the track ; with the first light of day the hunt is resumed, and 
towards the close of the second day, or in the course of the third, the kangaroo 
falls a victim to its pursuer. None but a skilful huntsman in the pride of 
youth and strength can perform this feat, and one who has frequently practised 
it always enjoys great renown amongst his fellows."t 

The natives of the Gawler Bange, in South Australia, use a method of 
taking the wallaby which is highly ingenious. They make of long smooth pieces 
of wood an instrument like a fishing-rod, to the thin end of which they attach 
the skin and feathers of a hawk^o careftilly arranged as to represent very 
accurately a living bird. Taking this in his hand, and his spear, the hunter 

♦ Afanners and Customs of the Natives of the Port Lincotn District^ by C. Wflhdmi, 1860. 
t Grej, ToL il, pp. 273-4. 

FOOD. 187 

roams the forest until he spies a wallaby, when, holding aloft his mock-bird, 
and giving a motion to the long flexible rod, such as to cause the mock-bird to 
appear to fly and stoop, he utters the cry of the hawk, and the wallaby at once 
takes refuge in the nearest bush. Cautiously stealing onwards, the native throws 
his spear and secures the game. 

Even when the native succeeds in spearing the kangaroo he is not always 
sure of obtaining the carcass without difficulty. An old kangaroo of great 
size is fierce when brought to bay, and must be approached cautiously and at- 
tacked at a safe distance. K the hunter recklessly seized him, the brute would 
endeavour to strike him with his great claw, and might seriously injure or kill 
him. I have seen an ^'old man kangaroo " of great size attack a man on horse- 
back. He followed the horse, and nearly succeeded in tearing open his quarter. 
Twice he attempted to tear the horse, and had not the animal been guided by an 
experienced rider, the kangaroo would have seriously injured him. 

When hunted, the kangaroo invariably '^ makes tracks " for a water-hole ; 
and, if hard pressed, will swim a river or enter the sea. 

The native secures a prize when he spears a well-grown kangaroo (a forester). 
Some weigh as much as 150 lbs. 

When a kangaroo is killed, the native is careful to preserve the sinews of the 
tail. He rolls the sinews around some stick or weapon or ball, so as to keep them 
stretched and in a fit state for fiiture use. 

The cooking of Uie kangaroo was in general a very simple affair. The hair 
was singed, the body scraped, and the entrails removed, and it was then roasted. 
The favorite method in ijie Paroo district, Mr. Sullivan informs me, is to cook 
the animal in a sort of oven. A hole is made in the ground, heated stones are 
put into it with the body of the kangaroo, and the whole is covered with hot 
ashes. In many parts the oven is more carefully constructed. The stones are 
heated in the hole, grass is placed over the stones, and the whole is covered with 
earth. If the steam is not sufficient to cook the fiesh properly, holes are made 
and water is poured in. The skin is left on, in order to preserve the juices of the 
meat, and it is customary to remove the entrails after the body is well warmed. 
The entrails are cooked separately. Sometimes the body of a large kangaroo is 
cut up, and separate portions of it are broiled. The blood is collected in one of 
the intestines, and a sort of '^ black pudding" is made. Ihe elders, of course, 
keep the delicacies for themselves, and amongst these the blood is very highly 

The several kinds of kangaroo caught and eaten by the natives of Victoria 
are as follow : — 

NatiTe Name— Lake Tyen. 

Elangaroo - Jirrah - - Macroptis majcr; weight about 150 lbs. 
Wallaby - Tharogang - Halmaturus ualabatus ; weight about 50 lbs. 

Eock wallaby - Wyat - - PetrogaUpenicillata (of N. S. Wales only).* 

* The true rock wallaby {P, penietUaia) ig not known, Prof eMor McCoy eajs, so far aonth aa the 
Laket in Gippsland. The apeciea named by the Ber. Mr. Bohner may be a aecond local name for 
H, Moiabatvst 


Katire Kame— Lake Tyen, 

Bed wallaby - KSnarra - Halmatums ualabatus. 

Small wallaby Dak-^wan - Halmaturus Billardieri. 

Padamelon - BoToey - - Halmaturus Billardieri. 

Kangaroo-rat - Bree - - Bittangia eunieulua. 

The red kangaroo {Osphranter rufus) is found in the interior from just north 
of the Murray. 


Opossums furnish the natives with an abundant supply of animal food in all 
the well-timbered tracts. These creatures, in situations suitable to them, are 
very numerous. When riding through the forests of the north-eastern parts of 
Victoria, I have seen, at night, many hundreds of them, and it was not at 
all difficult to get near them. They are easily seen by moonlight; and, by 
keeping in the deep shadows cast by the bushes, one can almost reach them by 
hand when they are on the lower branches of the trees. As fi^r as I have been 
able to observe them, they are less alarmed by sound and scent than any other 
of the marsupial inhabitants of the bush. A loud noise would, of course, cause 
them to hide themselves ; but one has not to be so cautious in approaching 
the retreat of these creatures as in attempting to observe the habits of the 
native cat, or even the native bear, which does not ordinarily exhibit much 

The opossum hunter roams through the forest, eyeing each tree as he goes, 
until he sees one likely to hold an opossum in some of its holes. He examines 
the bark, and so well skilled is he in his craft as to be able to determine at once 
whether there are marks of opossum's claws on it, whether they are fresh 
or not, and whether the creature has been ascending or descending. If the 
examination is satisfactory, he climbs the tree and takes the animal out of its 

The various ways in which the natives climb trees are described elsewhere. 

Sometimes the marks of the opossum's claws are very faint, and in such 
case the hunter breathes on the bark, in order to see whether there are any 
hairs or grains of sand on it. By such signs he is guided ; and he rarely 
returns to his camp without a good supply of opossum flesh. 

The several species of opossum constitute the ordinary animal food of the 
natives. They are taken with comparative ease. Indeed industry more than 
skill is required for their capture, though, without a knowledge of their habits, 
and in places where they are scarce, a man might make many attempts before 
securing one. 

In cooking them the natives are not very particular. In general, they are 
thrown upon a fire for perhaps a minute. Then the wool is pulled off, a hole is 
made in the stomach with a stick, and the entrails are taken out. The body is 
then roasted slowly in the hot embers and %phes of the fire. 

Sir Thomas Mitchell found that the native method of cooking the opossuni 
was not unsatisfactory, The flesh had a flavor of singed wool, but was not 
unpalatable even to a white man. 

FOOD. 189 

When a great nnmber of opossums are caught at one time^ they are cooked 
in an oven in the same manner as the kangaroo is cooked. 

The several kinds of opossums eaten by the natives of Victoria are as 
follow : — 

NatiTe ISltanerr^bakB Tjen. 

Opossum (common) - WadtAan - PhaUmgista vulpina. 

Black opossum - - Brak - PhaUmgista fuliginom (Tas* 

mania only*). 
Ring-tail opossum - Blaang - PAalangista viverrina. 

There is also the PhaUmgista eanina^ the native name of which I have not 


The wombats {PAascolomya platyrrAimis and P. niger) — ^the Naroot Namgncr 
or Warren of the natives — are odd-looking creatures, with clumsy, fat bodies, very 
short legs, and coarse hair. The specimens I have examined were gentle in their 
habits — ^not at all pugnacious, but very obstinate. One in confinement was 
shown a door where he could escape, and I attempted to stop him, but he thrust 
himself forward with a strength and determination for which I was unprepared. 
I used the utmost force to keep him back, but he good-naturedly struggled with 
me, and finally gained the victory. He is not a handsome creature ; but, when 
cooked, is said to afford some appetising morsels. Lieut.-Col. Collins says : — 
'^ The wombat, or, as it is called by the natives of Port Jackson, the womback, 
is a squat, short, thick, short-legged, rather inactive quadruped, with great 
appearance of stumpy strength, and somewhat bigger than a large turnspit-dog. 
Its figure and movements, if they do not exactly resemble those of the bear, at 
least strongly remind one of that animal. Its length from the tip of the tail 
to the tip of the nose is thirty-one inches, of which its body takes up twenty- 
three inches and five-tenths. The head is seven inches, and the tail five-tenths. 
Its circumference behind the fore legs, twenty-seven inches ; across the thickest 
part of the belly, thirty-one inches. Its weight by hand is somewhat between 
twenty-five and thirty pounds. The hair is coarse, and about one inch or one 
inch and five-tenths in length, thinly set upon the belly, thicker on the back 
and head, and thickest upon the loins and rump ; the color of it a light sandy- 
brown of varying shades, but darkest along the back. This animal has not 
any claim to swiftness of foot, as most men could run it down. Its pace is 
hobbling or shuffling, something like the awkward gait of a bear. In disposition 
it is mild and gentle ; but it bites hard, and is ftirious when provoked. Mr. 
Bass never heard its voice but at that time ; it was a low cry, between a hissing 
and a whizzing, which could not be heard at a distance of more than thirty or 
forty yards." 

In those parts of the colony where there is ground suitable for the wombat, 
whose habit is to burrow, he is found in great numbers. He has given names 

* ProfeMor MCG07 infonni me that the hlack opossum Is known only In Tasmania. The 
animal named Brok is perhaps the hlack fljing opossum, Tti/amrUta taguanoidei. 


to numerons places in Yictoria^ more particularly in the volcanic tracts/ where 
the earth is easily penetrated. In the Western district^ before the whites 
invaded it, he had a wide territory. Near the extinct volcanoes are beds of ash, 
and in these the wombat-holes were at one time thickly inhabited. 'Sow, one 
sees a wombat — ^in the vicinity of numberless holes — ^rarely ; and it may be 
presumed that the white man and his dogs and his guns are responsible for 
the diminution of the numbers. 

In the Life and Adventures of William Buckley a very good account is given 
of the method employed by the natives to capture the wombat. 

Buckley says : — " They [the wombats] live in holes in the earthy of about 
twenty feet long and from ten to twenty deep, in an oblique direction, burrowing 

in them like the mole. When well cooked they are good eating 

The natives take these creatures by sending a boy or girl into their burrows, 
which they enter feet first, creeping in backwards imtil they touch the animal. 
Having discovered the lair, they call out as loud as they can, beating the grouncl 
overhead, whilst those above are careMly listening, their ears being pressed 
close to the earth. By this plan of operations they are enabled to tell with 
great precision where they are. A perpendicular hole is then made, so as to 
strike the extremity of the burrow ; and having done this, they dig away with 
sharp sticks, lifting the mould out in baskets. The poor things are easily killed, 
for they make no resistance to these intrusions on their haunts, lliere is, 
however, a good deal of difficulty in making these holes, and in getting down so 
deep to them — so that it is a sort of hunting for food of which the natives are 
not very fond.'* 

The wombat. Eyre states, is driven to his hole with dogs at night, and a fire 
being lighted inside, the mouth is closed with stones and earth. The animal 
being by this means suffocated, is dug out at convenience.* 

The wombat is roasted vi his skin, and is said to afford most excellent meat. 

It is believed that this creature could be easily domesticated. 

The wombats of Victoria weigh as much as seveniy poxmds. 

Nativb Beab. 

The native bear {Phascolarctos dnereua) — Kaola (Gippsland), Koolhboorj 
KarboTy or Kur-bo-roo ( Yarra) — ^is arboreal in its habits, and is easily taken from 
the trees. If he is found on the ground, he commences to climb as soon as he 
sees an intruder, and utters a kind of growl as he rather slowly ascends, stopping 
and looking back rather anxiously from time to time, and apparently disinclined 
to take more exertion than is absolutely necessary for his safety. At Monkey 
Creek, in eastern Gippsland, these animals are very numerous. One morning 
I saw as many as five at one spot. One was apparently asleep at the side of 
the track, and I went close to him and tickled his ear with my riding-rod. He 
was pleased at first, but suddenly opening his eyes and seeing me, he shuffled 

* Jowmal qf ExpeditionM^ toL n^ p. 284. 

POOD. 191 

to the nearest tree and conunenced to climb it^ Beeminglj with great reluctance* 
I could have captured him with ease. 

The natives may not skin the bear. He is roasted whole in his skin. The 
flesh is said to taste like pork. 

The weight of a bear is about foriy pounds. 


The bandicoot {Perameles obesula, P. ncmtta^ P. fascicUa, and P. Ghinni) 
— Menaak (Gippsland), Warrun (Western district), Bang (Yarra) — ^burrows, 
and lives on roots. He is either caught in his nest or knocked down with a 

The porcupine {Echidna hystrix) — Kon>em (Gippsland), Wilanyul (Western 
district), Ka Warren (Yarra) — ^burrows in the ground to a good depth. He is 
got out by digging with a stick, and is speared in the breast. This creature, in 
proportion to its size, is of enormous strength. 

In cooking it, it is usually covered with clay and roasted in its quills. In 
Gippsland, the fat is severed from the lean and cooked separately. 

Amongst other animals eaten by the natives are the following : — 

Native dog {Canis Australasue) — Ngurran (Gippsland), Purnung (Western 
district) — ^the male it is said being named Pipkuru^ and the female Nrung^ 
yrreh) — Yearangin (Yarra) — ^speared or taken when young. 

Native cat (large) (JDasgums maculatus) — Womainte (Western district) — 
Native cat (common) {DasyuruA mverrintis) — BeatAedel (Yarra). 

Water-rat (Hydramya CArysogaster). 

Flying squirrels {Petaurista taguanoides)^ {Belidem brevieeps and B. Jfih 
tattis) — Barring (Western district). 

Mice (Mu8 Nova HollanduB) (JSapalotis condttor, H. apiealiSy and ff. 

Bats {Molossus Atiatralis)^ {Pteropw polioeephahis — ^flying fox), and several 
small species of Scotopkiltis* 

To these may be added the marsupials Phascogale penicillata and P. Calura 
(KtUar of natives). These small rat-like marsupials are often confounded with 
rats and mice in popular estimation^ but they are fierce carniverous animals. 


The emu {Dromaius Australis) — Burri-mul (Yarra), Micmera (Gippsland) — 
is a large bird, affording a good deal of nutritious flesh. When in an ordinary 
position, the head is about five feet from the ground. He is veiy fieet and very 

* The flying fox (Fteropmt amtpieUlatui) is caught and eaten hy the nstiyes of North Anstialia. 
The flesh is said to he rery good. On some of the islands these hats appear in prodigious nnmhers, 
and they may he seen flying in the bright snnshine, a thing unosnal in nocturnal animals.— > 
Voyage of HJi,S. JRattUgnake, 1862, Yol. i., p. 97. ... 



Btrongy and is hunted hj the natives much in the same manner as the kangaroo 
is hunted. In nearly all parts of Victoria he is speared, nets or yards not being 
used as a mle. 

Mr. Giles mentions finding in the interior of Australia yards erected by the 
natives for yarding emus and wallabies, and in one place a yard was discovered 
near a water-hole.* 

In the Cooper's Creek district, when food is scarce, and the weather is very 
hot, the natives follow the emu until he is tired, and capture him. 

The emu is not easily captured. I have seen a large kangaroo-dog knocked 
over two or three times by a stroke from the leg of an emu. This was in 
ascending a range, when the dog was able to overtake the emu ; in going down 
hill the bird extended his short wings and outpaced the dog. In former times, 
flocks of emus, forty or fifty together, might be seen feeding on the plains. 
The weight of an emu is about 130 lbs. The natives roast these birds in the 
ashes of their fires. 


The turkey (Otis AustraUmeims) — Brec^ell (Tarra), Komr-jinah (Gipps- 
land), Parimrbarim (Western district) — ^is a shy bird, but the natives are 
cunning in taking him. 

In the Western district they make an instrument long and flexible, like a 
fishing-rod, and attach to the end of the thinner part the skin 
and feathers of a small bird, or a dead butterfly, and a running 
noose. — (Fig, 18.) 

When the hunter sees a turkey, he slowly approaches the 
bird, holding in firont a bush to hide his person, and swinging 
aloft the decoy with a peculiar motion characteristic of the bird 
or insect. The turkey's attention is at once arrested and wholly 
taken up with the movements of the decoy. He stares at it 
stupidly, turns roxmd and stares again, but though it approaches, 
he does not move far. He continues to stare until the black 
gets near enough to slip the noose over his head and secure 

The weight of a full-grown turkey is about thirty pounds. It 
feeds on grass, beetles, and great quantities of grubs or larvao of 
na It. insects. 

The bird is always roasted by the natives, either in an oven or on the embers 
of the fire. 

* CtntraX Awtrtdia, by Erneet Giles, 1875, pp. 43 and 71. 

f When I was trayelUng orer the plains of the Western district on one occasion, I had an oppor* 
toniiy of putting to the test this strange habit of the wild turkey. We saw sereral with their young 
feeding on a wide, open, grassy plain, and selecting one old bird for experiment, we diore round him 
in our carriage, gradually decreasing the distance, the bird turning round and staring stupidly all 
the while at the rehicle, untU the dxlTcr was almost within reach of him with his whip. We could 
hare secured him if we had had a noose. 

FOOD. 193 

Native GoMPAmoK. 

The native companion {Grtis Atistralasiensis) — Goer-rook of the Tarra natives, 
and Korurik of the Western district — is a very elegant bird, of exquisite 
plumage, and almost too beautiful to be eaten. He is quite friendly in his 
habits, and may be seen sometimes following the plough, and busUy engaged 
in picking up grubs and worms. The natives kill this bird with a stick, a 
boomerang, or a waddy. When a flock is flying low at evening, they come 
within range, and a skilftd man will easily secure at least one out of a flock. 

The flesh is said to be very good. The bird is cooked in the same manner 
as the emu and the turkey. 

The weight of a full-sized bird is about twenty-flve pounds. It feeds on 
fish, lizards, mice, &c. 

Catchiko Ducks and othibb Wild-fowl. 

Aquatic fowls supplied the natives with food at all seasons — ^indeed when- 
ever a native was hungry he would take one if he could secure it either by 
boomerang, or waddy, or spear, or by following it in the water and catching it. 
As far as I can gather, they did not have a ^^ close season " in Victoria. They 
took the birds when they could get them. 

A common method of catching ducks is by fixing a net, about sixty yards 
in length, across a watercourse, a river, a swamp, or a lagoon — ^the lower part 
being three or four feet above the water. The ends of the net are either fixed to 
trees or held by natives stationed in trees. One man proceeds up the river or 
lagoon, and cautiously moves so as to cause the ducks to swim towards the net. 
When they are near enough, he firightens them, and they rise on the wing, and 
at the same time another native, near the net, throws up a piece of bark, shaped 
like a hawk, and utters the cry of that bird. The flock of ducks at that moment 
dip, and many are caught in the net. Four men are usually employed when 
this sport is pursued. This account was given to me by Wye-wye-^trninej a 
native of the Lower Murray. 

Mr. Beveridge says that sometimes three dozen ducks are caught in this 
manner at one time, without the breakage of a single mesh of the net. 

Major Sir Thomas Mitchell mentions this method of catching wild-fowl. He 
says : — " The natives had left in one place a net overhanging the river, being 
suspended between two lofty trees, evidently for the purpose of catching ducks 
and other water-fowl. The meshes were about two inches wide, and the net 
hung down to within about five feet of the water. In order to obtain water- 
fowl with this net, it is customary for some of the natives to proceed up and 
others down the river, in order to scare the birds from other places ; and when 
any flight of them comes into the net, it is suddenly lowered into the water, thus 
entangling the birds beneath until the natives go into the water and secure 
them. Among the few specimens of art to be found in use with the primitive 
inhabitants of those wilds none came so near our own manufacture as the net, 



which even in quality as well as in the mode of knotting could scarcely be 
distinguished from our own." * 

Mr. Chenery says that he has often seen the natives of the Gk)ulbum catch 
ducks. A man swims under water, breathing through a reed, and approaches a 
flock without creating any alarm. When he is within reach of a duck, he seizes 
it by the feet, drags it under water, wrings its neck, and tucks it under his belt. 
In this way, quietly and noiselessly, he secures a great number of birds. 

In other parts a somewhat similar method is followed. When a number of 
ducks is seen on a river or a lagoon, a native enters the water — ^far below them 
— covers his head with flags or rushes, or any weed that is growing in the water, 
and swims towards the flock. He approaches the ducks cautiously, and takes 
one after another in the manner described by Mr. Chenery. 

Sometimes the natives sneak along the banks of a river, and, concealing 
themselves amongst the reeds, get so near the water«fowl as to be able to spear 
them, or take them with a noose. 

Meyer states that swans, geese, ducks, and other water-fowl, which are 
plentiful in the Lakes, are taken by the men of the Encounter Bay tribe by a 
noose at the end of a long stick. They steal upon them, concealed by the 
long grasses and rushes on the banks of the stream, until they are within reach 
of the birds. 

Taplin flnds the noose in use generally amongst the natives of the Lower 
Murray, but the reed-spear is also employed. The natives send their spears 
into the dense flocks of widgeon {punkerz)j and transfix the birds as they fly. 
By means of the spear they kill a great many.t 

^^ Most of the wild-fowl on the Lakes," says Mr. Taplin, ^^ are unable to fly 
in the moulting season ; they then betake themselves to the reeds. A net is put 
by the natives round a clump of reeds, beaters are sent in to drive out the 
ducks, which rush into the nets and are captured by scores."^ 

In Gippsland the natives caught the wild-fowl also when moulting, and 
when sitting on their eggs, or when just fledged. It does not appear that they 
used either the net or the noose. 

The swan was usually taken by stratagem. He was driven into reeds, and 
then speared or knocked on the head with a waddy. 

In the Paroo district ducks are taken usually, Mr. Sullivan informs me, in 
nets, arranged like those in use amongst the natives of the Murray. Sometimes 
they are knocked down by sticks, and sometimes a native will cover his head 
with mud, and swim so close to a duck as to be able to hit it with ease with 
any weapon he may have with him. When ducks are flying along a water- 
course, a boomeraufi: thrown amonefst them will brin/? down one or two. 

In cooking birds tixe nativea Ld, in former Ls, an oven formed of a 
number of heated stones on which wet grass was strewn. The birds were placed 

* Interior o/Eastam Australia, hj Major T. L. MitcheU, F.G.S., 1838. 

t Byre f tates tliat the natiTeB commonlj used the (ot-taMo— ft long rod with a noose at the end 
—for snaring water-fowL^^otcmo/y toL n., p. 285. 
X The Narrinyerif p. 30. 



on the grasS; and covered with it; more heated stones were laid on^ and the 
whole was covered with earth. In this way they were half-stewed. The Murray 
tribes still use this method. In Gippsland it has fallen into disuse. 

The following is a list of some of the aquatic and other birds eaten by the 
natives : — 

Katire Name— Lake Tyen, 

- Cygnus atraius. 

- Ameranas melanolettca. 

- Pelecanus canspicillattuf. 

- Anas superciliosa. 

- Casarca Tadamoides. 

- Malacorhynckus mefniranaceus. 

- PlcUaleaJlampes. 

- Biziura l-obata. 

- Chlamydochenjtibata. 

- (?) 

- Anas punctata. 

- PhalacTOcoTax eoarbaides. 

- Phalaerocorax melanoleueus 
and P. leueogaster. 

- Polioetus leucogaster. 

- I^rtis pain/lcus. 
• Xema Jamesoni. 

Parrots of many kinds are very numerous in the forests of Australia, and the 
natives are practised in killing them with the short heavy sticks they carry and 
with the boomerang. The cockatoo-parrots fly in large flocks. Sometimes at 
evening one may see hundreds of them high in the air, on the borders of the 
swamps, flying hither and thither and screaming loudly. They are wary birds, 
and a sportsman must use great caution in approaching them. In Gippsland 
the cockatoo {Braak) and parrots of other kinds were not often killed by the 
boomerang. The natives generally took them when they were sitting on their 
eggs, or when too young to fly, or when moulting. 

Grey gives an animated description of the killing of cockatoos by the 
boomerang. He says : — ^^ Perhaps as fine a sight as can be seen in the whole 
circle of native sports is the killing cockatoos with the kiley or boomerang. A 
native perceives a large flight of cockatoos in a forest which encircles a lagoon ; 
the expanse of water affords an open clear space above it, imencumbered with 
trees, but which raise their gigantic forms all around, more vigorous in their 
growth from the damp soil in which they flourish ; and in their leafy summits 
sit a countless number of cockatoos, screaming and flying from tree to tree, as 
they make their arrangements for a night's sound sleep. The native throws 

* The oatiYeB plant stakes in the water, in places where there are no natural resting-places for 
the shags and cormorants, and when the birds perch on these, they swim qnietlj up to them and 
seize them. They also knock them off the branches of the stranded trees and withered stumps on 
which they sit with sticks or with the boomerang. 

Swan - 



Gidi - 




Burr an ' 

Common wild or black 

Mountain duck 
Pink-eyed duck 
Musk duck 



Wrang - 




Wood duck 



Naak - 

Teal . . 



Barook - 

Speckled teal 



Kamie - 

Shag - 




Sea eagle - 
Large gull - 
Small common i 




Tarook - 


aside his cloak, so that he may not even have this slight covering to impede his 
motions, draws his kiley from his belt, and with a noiseless, elastic step 
approaches the lagoon, creeping from tree to tree, from bush to bnsh, and dis- 
turbing the birds as little as possible. Their sentinels, however, take the alarm ; 
the cockatoos farthest from the water fly to the trees near its edge, and thus 
they keep concentrating their forces as the native advances ; they are aware that 
danger is at hand, but are ignorant of its nature. At length the pursuer almost 
reaches the edge of the water, and the scared cockatoos, with wild cries, spring 
into the air. At the same instant the native raises his right hand over his 
shoulder, and bounding forward with his utmost speed for a few paces, to give 
impetus to his blow, the kiley quits his hand as if it would strike the water ; 
but when it has almost touched the unruffled surface of the lake, it spins up- 
wards with inconceivable velocity and with the strangest contortions. In vain 
the terrified cockatoos strive to avoid it; it sweeps wildly and uncertainly 
through the air, and so eccentric are its motions, that it requires but a slight 
stretch of the imagination to fancy it endowed with life, and with fell swoops is 
in rapid pursuit of the devoted birds — some of whom are almost certain to be 
brought screaming to the earth. But the wily savage has not yet done with 
them. He avails himself of the extraordinary attachment which these birds have 
for one another, and fastening a wounded one to a tree, so that its cries may 
induce its companions to return, he watches his opportunity, by throwing his 
kiley or spear, to add another bird or two to ^e booty he has already 
obtained." * 

Amongst the parrots most conmionly taken the following may be men- 
tioned : — 

Eosehill ------ PkUycercus eximius. 

King loiy ------ Aprosmicttis scapulatus. 

Green leek ------ Polytelia Barrabandi. 

Blue mountain ----- Trickoglossus multicolor. 

Ground parrakeet - - - - - Pezophonta formosus. 

Pennant's parrot ------ Flatycercus Pennanti. 

Cockatoo (species that fly in flocks) - Cacatua galerita. 

Cockatoo (without a crest) - - - Licmetis tenuirostris. 

Small birds of various kinds, which feed on the blossoms of the honey- 
suckle {Banksia)y are caught by the natives living in the Mallee scrub in the 
following manner. A hole is dug in the ground sufficiently large to admit of a 
man's sitting in it comfortably, and over it is built a mia-mia of green boughs 
and twigs. In front a number of small sticks are stuck in the ground slant- 
ingly and crossing each other. The native, having provided himself with a thin 
stick, frirnished with a running noose of fine cord at the end, takes his seat in 
the hole, and imitates the chirping of the birds. After some trouble, he secures 
one, and he uses this as a decoy, fastening it by a cord to one of the long 
slanting sticks. It attracts numbers by its cries, and the native cautiously en- 
snares one after the other with the loop, until he takes perhaps three himdred 

* Greji Tol. n., p« S8S« 

FOOD. 197 

or more. Haying passed the loop over the head of the bird, he twists the stick 
and adroitly draws it into the hole. A patient hnnter is always well rewarded 
when pursuing this method of capture. 

The natives had many other contrivances for catching birds ; but perhaps 
the simplest and most curious is that formerly practised in New South Wales. 
Collins relates that the men of New South Wales caught crows in this man* 
ner : A native stretched himself on a rock, as if asleep in the sun, holding a 
piece of fish in his hand. The bird — hawk or crow — seeing the prey, and not 
observing any motion in the native, pounced on the fish ; and in the instant of 
seizing it was caught by the savage, who cooked it quickly on the fire, making 
a meal that for enjoyment might be envied by an epicure. 

When a native was hungry he would eat any bird he could kill. Amongst some 
of the more common, though not necessarily easily taken, may be mentioned 
the eagle {Aquila audax)j hawks {Teracidea berigarcuj Astur approximansj and 
Tinnuneuitis cenekroides); pigeon — ^large pigeon of Upper Yarra {Leucosarcia 
pic(Ua)j bronze-wing pigeon (Peristera elegans)y and crested pigeon {Ocyphaps 
laphotes); magpie (common) {GymnorAina letic(mota)j minah-bird {Myzardha 
garrtda\ wattle-bird {Meliphaga camuculcUa), mutton-bird (JPttffimartis brevi" 
caiidus)y and crow (Cortnis earoTiaides); lyre-bird {Menura superba)^ owl {Strix 
delicatuld)y laughing jackass {Dacelo gigas)^ and the more-pork (JPodargiiB 
humeralia and P. Cuvieri). 


Turtle, etc. 

The fresh-water turtle {Platemys Macquatid) — Ngart (Gippsland), Putehn 
poh (Lake Condah) — ^is found in great numbers in many of the rivers, lagoons, 
and swamps of Victoria. It is caught with the hand, and roasted in the shell. 
On the Murray, the natives take a great many of these reptiles during the 
summer season ; and the flesh is said to be delicate and delicious. 

The sea turtles are not seen £Etr south of Shark's Bay, on the north-western 
coast, and they do not come further south than Sydney, on the north-eastern 
coast.* They are, of course, unknown to the natives of yictoria.t 

* Professor McCoy informs me that the leathery tartle {SphargiM conaeea) comes as far south 
as Portland ; the hawk's-bill turtle (^Caretta tquamcUa) and green tartle {Chekmia virgaid) axe not 
known to bim south of Sydney. 

t On the north-western and north-eastern coasts the natiyes are adroit in taking both the green 
tartle and the hawk's-bill tartle. The former are osoally surprised on the beach when they come 
to lay their eggs, but sometimes they are attacked in the water when they are asleep. In pursuing 
this dangerous sport, the natiye has to exercise great caution in order to aroid the sharp edges of 
the shells, those of the females being especiaUy keen. When he sees a turtle that he thinks he 
may renture to attack, he slips gently from his canoe, swims under the turtle, and by a strong 
effort turns it on its back, at the same time wrenching the fore flipper so as to prerent it £rom 
swimming. With the assistance of his companions, the sportsman then attaches a string to the 
turtle and secures it. It is taken also, Mr. J. G. Wood says, in some places with the harpoon. 
But the most remarkable method of all is that described by the Messrs. Jardiue : — *' A singular 
mode of taking the hawk's-bill turtle is f oUowed by the natiyes here. This custom, though said to 
be known so long back as the time of the disooyery of America by Columbus, is so strangely 
interesting that I will giye a short account of it as I haye seen it practised. A species of sucking* 
fish (Aemora) is used. On the occasion to which I allude, two of these were caught by the blacks 


The nnmerons reptfles, easily caught in eveiy part of the country, suppUed 
food daring the summer season. Besides the smaller lizards^ there is the large 
iguana {Hydrosaurus varius) — Bathalook (Gippsland) — which furnishes a 
quantity of excellent flesh ; and, of the larger snakes, there are the death- 

in the smaU pools in a coral reef, care being taken not to injure them. They were laid in the 
bottom of a canoe, and corered oyer with wet sea-weed, a strong fishing-line haying been preyionslj 
fastened to the taU of each. Four men went in the canoe— one steering with a paddle in the stem, 
one paddling on either side, and one in the fore part looking out for the tortle and attending to the 
fishing-lines, while I sat on a sort of stage fixed amidships, supported by the outrigger poles. The 
day was yery calm and warm, and the canoe was allowed to drift with the current, which runs 
Tery strong on these shores. A small turtle was seen, and the sucking-fish was put into the water. 
At first it swam lazily about, apparently recoyering the strength which it had lost by removal from 
its native element ; but presently it swam slowly in the direction of the turtle, tiU out of sight. In 
a yery short time the line was rapidly carried out, there was a jerk, and the turtle was jbst. The 
line was handled gently for two or three minutes, the steersman causing the canoe to follow the 
course of the turtle with great dexterity. It was soon exhausted and hauled up to the canoe. It 
was a smaU turtle, weighing a little under 40 lbs.; but the sucking-fish adhered so tenaciously to it 
as to raise it from the ground when held up by the tail ; and this some time after being taken out 
of the water. I have seen turtle weighing more than 100 lbs. which had been taken in the manner 
described. Though large numbers of the hawk's-bill turtle are taken by the Cape York natiyes, it 
is yery difficult to procure the shell from them ; they are either too lazy to save it, or, if they do so, 
it is bartered to the islanders of Torres Straits, who use it for making masks and other ornaments." 
-^Degcription qf the Neighhourhood of Somersetf by John Jardine, Esq., Police Magistrate, Somerset, 
Cape York, 1866. 

** Turtle forms an important article of food, and four difi^rent kinds are distinguished at Cape 
York and the Prince of Wales Islands. Three of these can be identified as the green, the hawk's- 
bill, and the loggerhead species, and the fourth is a small one which I never saw. This last, I was 
informed by GVom, is fished for in the following extraordinary manner: — A live sucking-fish 
(Echeneit remora), having previously been secured by a line passed round the tail, is thrown into 
the water in certain places known to be suitable for the purpose. The fish, while swimming about, 
makes fast by its sucker to any turtle of this small kind which it may chance to encounter, and both 
are hauled in together. .... One day some of us, while walking the poop, had our attention 
directed to a sucking-fish, about two and a half feet in length, which had been made fast by the tail 
to a billet of wood, by a fathom or so of spun yam, and turned adrift. An immense striped shark, 
apparently about fourteen feet in length, which had been cruizing about the ship all the morning, 
sailed slowly up, and turning slightly on one side, attempted to seise the apparently helpless fish ; 
but the sucker, with great dexterity, made himself fast in a moment to the shark's back. Off 
darted the monster at full speed, the sucker holding on fast as a limpet to a rock, and the billet 
towing astern. He then rolled over and over, tumbling about, when, wearied with his efforts, he lay 
quiet for a little. Seeing the fioat, the shark got it into his mouth, and disengaging the sucker by 
the tug on the line, made a bolt at the fish ; but his puny antagonist was again too quick, and fixing 
himself dose behind the dorsal fin, defied the efforts of the shark to disengage him, although he 
rolled over and over, lashing the water with his tail until it foamed all round. What the final result 
was we could not clearly make out." — Voy<ige of HM.S, Maiilesnetke, by John MacgiUivray, 1852, 
Tols. I. and ii. 

Dampier makes mention of a sucking-fish ; and no doubt the fishling referred to by Pliny, in the 
opening chapter of his dSnd book, was of the nature of the creature above described. 

The common Remora, Professor McCoy says in a note to me, is eight or ten inches long, and is 
occasionally found on sharks and other fish. He adds, in reference to the account given by Mr. 
Jardine : — ** It seemed to me that the natives successfully catching turtle by use of the EcheneU 
remora of our seas was as mythical as the old classical fable referred to of these little sucking-fishes 
stopping ships in full sail ; but, as Mr. Jardine has seen it, the matter is of course settled, although 
he omits to mention how the line is attached to the Remora so as not to impede its locomotion and 
yet stop that of a turtle. There is no doubt that the fish attaches itself to turtle, as well as sharks 
and other fish, so firmly that the body may be torn sooner than the sucker be detached." 

FOOD. 199 

adder (Aeanthcphis antaretiea), the black snake {Paeudeehys porphyraieus)^ 
the tiger snake {Hoploeephalua curtus\ and the large brown snake (hiemenia 

Frogs were roasted and eaten in some parts of Victoria; and amongst 
these the natives probably often took the common green frog (Rankyla aurea), 
the smaller dark one {Lymnodynastea Tasmaniensis)^ and the tree-frogs {Syla 
phyllochroa and Hyla Verreattxi). 


There is not much to add^ with respect to the native methods of catching 
fish, to the information given under the heads of Spears, and Fish-hooks, and 
Nets for Fishing. The natives appear to have practised at least five different 
methods of taking fish, 'namely: — 

1. By hand. — In shallow pools, in lagoons, and in the ana-branches of 
rivers, in times of drought, they would catch a few fish by wading into the 
shallow water and taking them by hand. Black-fish are commonly caught by 
hand in the water-holes of the Western district.! 

In the Port Lincoln district, the natives go into the water and push the 
fish before them with branches of trees until they are fairly driven ashore. 

'^ Some fishes are, in the night, attracted to light, and then easily killed. 
The blacks, provided with torches made of long strips of bark, go into the 
water and catch them with the hand, striking them or spearing them.''} 

2. By nets. — ^The native nets are used very much in the same manner as^in 
Europe. Mr. Francis F. Armstrong, the Government Interpreter in Western 
Australia, says that nets were not known when the Europeans first landed in 
that colony, but that they are used by the people of the north coast, who make 
the twine of a fibre obtained from spinifex or the bark of trees. 

The method of fishing by the net is thus described by the Eev. J. G. Wood. 
He says : — ^^ This requires at least two men to manage it. The net is many 
feet in length, and about four feet in width. It is kept extended by a number 
of sticks placed a yard or so apart, and can then be rolled up in a cylindrical 
package and be taken to the water. One man then takes an end of the net, 
unrols it, and, with the assistance of his comrade, drops it into the water. As 
soon as the lower edge of the net touches the bottom, the men wade towards 

* Buckley says, in his namtiTe, that on one occasion, when the natirei let fire to the grass 
and scrnh of the forest for the purpose of enclosing and catching kangaroos, womhats, opossums, 
native cats, wild dogs, lizards, snakes, &c., they found "a monster snake, haring two distinct heads, 
separating about two inches ftom the body, black on the back, with a brownish-yellow belly, and red 
spots all oyer. It had been about nine feet long, but the fire had burnt the body in two, and, 
being such an unnatural-looking monster, the natives were terribly frightened at its appearance/' 

Professor McCoy states that young snakes with two heads (monsters) occasionally occur of the 
different species. One was lately sent to Melbourne. 

t Much interesting information is giren by Eyre respecting the sereral methods employed by the 
natires in catching fish. He says he has seen them diye down in the rirer, without net or implement 
of any kind, and bring up good^sized fish, which they had caught with their hands at the bottom. 
^-JoumdU of ExpediHonM of Discovery into Central AustraUOf 1846, Tol. u., p. 861. 

X WiUiehni, p. 175. 


the shoTe^ drawing with them the two ends of the net and all the fish that 
happen to be within its range. As soon as they near the shore, they bring the 
two ends of the net to the land, fix them there, and are then able to pick np and 
throw ashore all the fish that are in the net. Some of the more active fish 
escape bjr leaping oyer the upper edge of the net, and some of the mud-loving 
and crafty wriggle their way under the lower edge; but there is always a 
sufliciency of fish to reward the natives for their labor," * 

^^ The Narrinyeri make fishing-lines and twine from two kinds of fibre. One 
is a bulrush which grows in the scrub; the other is the root of a fiag or 
bulrush which grows in firesh water, and is called Menunffksri. The rushes or 
roots are, first of all, either boiled [?] or steamed in the native oven, and then 
chewed by the women. A party of them will sit round the fire and masticate 
the fibrous material by the hour. While they do so, the masses of fibre which 
have been chewed are handed to the men who sit by, and they work it up, by 
twisting it on the thigh, into hanks of twine, either stout or fine, according 
to the purpose to which it is to be applied. Others receive the twine as fast 
as it is made, and make it into nets. They wind the twine on a short stick, 
which is used as the netting needle. The only measure of the size of the mesh 
is the finger of the netter, and yet their nets are wonderfully regular. The 
stitch is exactly the same as ours, but it is taken over and towards the netter, 
instead of under as we do. They make lengths of this net about four feet wide, 
and tie straight sticks of Mallee across it, to keep it open ; then a nxmiber of 
lengths are tied together, end to end, and it is used for catching fish or moulting 
ducks, in the usual way."t 

^^ Some nets are furnished with a bag or pouch of netting, with smaller 
meshes placed at one end of the net, into which the smaller fish are driven as 
the net is hauled in. When the fish approach the shore, the natives enter the 
water with the net, and swim about until they get the fish between themselves 
and the shore ; they then spread out the net, those on shore directing them, so 
that they may enclose the fish, and, as soon as this is accomplished, they are 
drawn to the shore."! 

3. By spearing. — ^Various kinds of spears, as figured and described in this 
work, are used for taking fish of all kinds, both in the sea and in firesh water. 
The natives are very skilful in all sports, as already stated, but in using the 
spear in fishing they are astonishingly expert. 

Sir Thomas Mitchell describes a fishing scene on the Darling. He says : — 
^ There was an unusually deep and broad reach of the river opposite to our 
camp, and it appeared that they fished daily in different portions of it in the 
following manner. The king stood erect in his bark canoe, while nine young 
men with short spears went up the river, and as many down the river, until, at 
a signal firom him, all dived into it, and returned towards him, alternately 
swimming and diving; these divers transfixing the fish under water, and 

* The Natural History •/ Man, toI. u., p. 19. 

f The Narrixjferi (Lower Murraj), by the Ber. Geo. Tapliiiy p. 30. 

% EncowUer Bay Tribe (South Australia), by H. S. A. Meyer, pp. «-7. 

POOD. 201 

throwing them on the bank. Others on the river brink speared the fish when 
thns enclosed^ as they appeared among the reeds, in which small openings were 
purposely made to attract them. In this manner they speared with astonishing 
despatch some enormoas cod (Peel's perch), but the largest were struck by the 
chief from his canoe with a long barbed spear. After a short time the young 
men in the water were relieved by an equal number, upon which they came out 
shivering — ^the weather being very cold — ^to warm themselves in the centre of a 
circular fire, kept up by the gins on the bank. The death of the fish in their 
practised hands was almost instantaneous, and caused by merely holding them 
by the tail with the gills immersed." * 

At the mouth of the Murray, and at the Lakes, fish are caught with the 
three-pronged spear ;t and the natives of the Bellingen River (lat. 30'' 30' S.) use 
a spear of the same kind.| It is mentioned also by P6ron.§ 

Near Yelta, on the Murray, fish are speared with the paddle, which has hooked 
grains at one end, made of kangaroo leg-bones. || 

Collins observed the several modes of catching fish as practised on the sea- 
coast. On one occasion he saw the men killing fish with the fiz-gig — ^an instru- 
ment made of the wattle, having a joint in it, fastened by gum, and from fifteen 
to twenty feet in length. It was armed with four barbed prongs, the barb being 
a piece of bone secured by gum. IT 

Lieut.-Ool. Mundy was much pleased with the sight of a native using 
the fish-spear. ^^Just opposite La Perouse's monument," he says, ''we saw 
a black spearing the rock-cod and groper, which feed on the shell-fish torn 
from the rocks in stormy weather. The figure of this man poised motionless on 
a pedestal of rock, with his lance ready to strike, the waves dashing up to his 
feet, was a subject for a bronze statue." ** 

4. By fveirs. — ^The natives are ingenious in constructing weirs both in salt 
and fresh water. In the former they are placed in the flats left nearly dry at 
low water, and in the latter so as to take advantage of floods, or an increased 
artificial flow of water, which they manage by constructing dams, or excavating 
the outlet of a lake or lagoon. 

They have also movable dams. On the Bogan, ''fishing is left entirely to the 
gins, who drag every hole in a very effectual and simple manner, by pushing 
before them, from one end of the pond to the other, a movable dam of long, 
twisted dry grass, through which the water only can pass, while all the fish 
remain and are caught." 

In the Gwydir, Major Mitchell found osier-nettings of neat workmanship. 
The frames were as well squared as if they had been done by a carpenter, and 

* Interior of Ea»Um Australia, hj M^jor T. L. Mitchell, F.G.S., 1838, ToLi., p. 266. 

t The NarHnyeri, hj the Ber. Gea Taplin, 1874. 

X Atietralia,/rom Port Macquarie to Moretom Bay, by Clement Hodgkinson, 1845. 

%**1a pdche leur est famiU^rey et U f onine est rinstrument que nous levr aTons yu employer 
de pr§f(§reiice : ils dresseDt aossi des plages, pour le mdme objet, sur lea bordi de la riri^re Yasse." 
—If. F. Piron, toL m., p. 162, 180O-1804. 

I Lower Murray Aborigines, bj Peter Beyeridge, 1861. 

4 Atfw South Wales, by lieat.-Col. Collins, 1804. 
** Our Antipodes, by Lieat.-CoL Mundy, 1857. 



into these frames twigs were inserted, at regular intervals, so as to form, by 
crossing each other, a strong and efficient kind of net or snare. Where these 
were erected, a small opening was left towards the middle of the current, in 
order, probably, that some sort of bag or netting might be applied there to 
receive the fish, while the native in the river above shonld drive them to this 

In Western Australia fish are nearly always taken in weirs, made of brush- 
wood and poles, from three to six feet in depth. 

Mr. Gideon S. Lang gives a description of a singular work of art constructed 
by the Aborigines. He says : — " The great weir for catching fish, on the Upper 
Darling, called Breewamerj is, both for conception and execution, one of the 
most extraordinary works recorded of any savage tribe, and, independent of 
another described by Murrell, the shipwrecked mariner, who passed seventeen 
years among them, is quite sufficient to prove their capacity to construct works 
on a large scale, and requiring combined action. This weir {Breewamer) is 
about sixty-five miles above the township of Bourke. It is built at a rocky part 
of the river, from eighty to one hundred yards in width, and extends about one 
hundred yards of the river course. It forms one immense labyrinth of stone 
walls about three or four feet high, forming circles from two to four feet in 
diameter, some opening into each other, forming very crooked but continuous 
passages, others having one entrance only. In floods, as much as twenty feet of 
water sweeps over them, and carries away the tops of the walls ; the lower parts 
of the walls, however, are so solidly and skilfully built with large, heavy stones, 
which must have been brought from a considerable distance, and with great 
combined labor, that they have stood every flood from time immemorial. Every 
summer this labyrinth is repaired, and the fish, in going up or down the river, 
enter it, get confrised in its mazes, and are caught by the blacks by hand in 
inmiense quantities."t 

5. By hooka. — Catching fish by the hook and line was not practised by all 
the natives of Victoria. In Gippsland, however, they used hooks made of bone; 
and an ancient fish-hook of bone, obtained from Gippsland, is figured in this 
work. Mr. Green says that the natives of the Yarra were unacquainted with 
the hook. Meyer and Taplin and Wilhelmi state that it was not used in South 
Australia until after the arrival of the Europeans; nor is it known on the Paroo. j: 
But the natives of Victoria, in some parts certainly — if not in the Western dis- 
trict, most assuredly on the eastern seaboard — ^were accustomed to make fishing 
hooks and lines. The Western Port blacks name the fish-hook Ling*anAing*an 
— ^but perhaps they derived the invention and were taught its uses by the Gipps- 
land natives. In the north-eastern and northern parts of Australia the blacks 
make excellent fish-hooks and good lines. 

The hooks were not in all parts of the same shape as those that somewhat 
resemble European hooks. They appear to have sharpened pieces of wood in 
such a manner as when hitched to twine and baited would secure the larger 
kinds of fish. 

* Eastern Australia, 1838. f ^^ Aborigines qf Australia, 1865, pp. 19-20. t ^* ^- SttUiYa]i,^S. 

POOD. 203 

Collins says he saw the natives fishing with the hook and line in New Sonth 
Wales. The women^ he says, used the hook and line. The lines were made of 
the bark of a small tree, and the hooks of the mother-of-pearl oyster, which they 
mbbed on a stone until it assumed the shape desired. ^^ While fishing, the 
women sing. In their canoes they always carry a small fire laid upon sea-weed 
or sand, with which, when desirous of eating, they dress their meal." * 

The hook, probably, travelled slowly southwards, along the eastern seaboard, 
and had not reached the Lower Murray at the time the whites settled there. 
Negative evidence on such a matter is not, however, of much value. 

The fish-hooks figured in M. Piron's work (1800-1804) are exactly similar 
to those of Gippsland and Bockingham Bay ; and I think it may be safely 
assumed that the invention of the shell-hook is native, f 

Amongst the fish commonly taken by the blacks are the Murray cod ( Oligorus 
Macquariensi8)y which is often three feet in length and very heavy ; the bream 
{Chrysophrys Atistralis) ; the schnapper {Pagrus unieolar) ; the herring (Proto^ 
troctes marcgna) ; the black-fish ( Gadopsis marmoratus) ; the Murray cat-fish 
(^Capidoglanis tandanus) ; the gudgeon or trout of colonists (Galaxias ocellatua 
and G. attenuatus) ; the eel {Anguilla Atistralis) ; the large conger eel (Conger 
Wilsoni) ; the flounder {Rhornhosoleaflesoides and Pleuranecties Victoriai) ; the 
flat-head {Platycephaltis TasTnanieus); the gH,T'&Q}i(iremirany)Aus intermeditis); 
the whiting {Sillago macuUUa) ; the chimera {CallarkyncAus atUarctictis) ; the 
common skate {Raya Lemprieri) ; the sting-ray {Myliobates aquila) ; the dog- 
fish {Galetis eanis and Mtistela vulgaris) \ and the large shark {Odontaspis 

Of the aquatic mammals may be mentioned the whale t {Physahis Grayi — 
McCoy), the species conmionly stranded in Victoria, and eaten by the natives ; 
and the porpoise {Delpkinus fulvifasdaius) ; and of the marine carnivorous 
mammalia, the sea-leopard (JStenorhynckus leptanyx)^ and the eared seal, Otaria 
{ArctoeepAaltis) lobattis. 

* New South Wales, by Lieat.-CoL ColUni, 1804. 

t A flflh-hook used hj the natiTes of the Louisiade Ib flgnred and detcrtbed in MacgilliTraj'a 
Narrative of the Vojffige of the Ratdemahe. It is seyen inches in length, Ib made of some hard 
wood, and has an ann four and a half inches long, taming up at a sharp angle, and tipped with a 
slightly-cnrred barb of tortoise-shell, projecting horizontally inwards an inch and a half. It 
somewhat resembles the flsh-hook of the New Zealanders. 

{ ''A whale" says Grey, *is the greatest delicacy that a natire can partake of, and whilst 
standing beside the giant frame of one of these monsters of the deep, he can only be compared to a 
moose standing before a hage plum-cake ; in either case the mass of the food compared to that of the 

consumer is enormous When a natire proprietor of an estate in Australia finds 

a whale thrown ashore upon his property, his whole feelings undergo a sudden rernlsion. Instead 
of being churlishly afraid of the slightest aggression on his property, his heart expands with 
benerolence, and he longs to see his fHends about him ; so he falls to work with his wives, and 
kindles large fires to glre notice of the joyfU erent. This duty being performed, he rubs himself 
all orer with the blubber, then anoints his fsTorite wiTCs, and thus prepared, cuts his way through 
the blubber into the flesh or beef, the grain of which is about as firm as a goose-quill ; of this, he 
selects the nicest morsels, and either broils them on the fire, or cooks them as kabobs, by cutting 
them into smaU pieces, and spitting them on a pointed stick. By-and-by, other natires come gaily 
trooping in from all quarters : by night they dance and sing, and by day they eat and sleep ; and for 
days this rerelry continues unchecked, until they at last fairly eat their way into the whale, and you 





Schnapper - 

- Nerabogang 


- Koortgvt 


- Pertpin 


- Thacki 

Tiarge flat-head 

- Bimbiang 

Flat-head - 

- Brindat 


- Kine 


- Tambun 


- Karie 

Sand mullet - 

- Krinyang 

Fat mullet - 

- Pertpiang 

Sea trout 

- Billing 

Gtolden perch 

- Looterak 

Silver perch - 

- Kooee 

Large perch - 

- Wirrinbown 

The fish commonly taken and eaten in Gippsland are as follow : — 

How taken. 

- With bone-hook. 

- In the net ; seldom with hook. 

- Speared. 
. - Speared. 

- With spear and hook. 

- With spear and hook. 

- With the bone-hook. 

- With the bone-hook. 

- With the bone-hook. 

- With the bone-hook. 

- In net made of grass. 

- With the bone-hook. 

- In the net. 

- In the net. 

- Speared. 

The whale {Kaandka) and the porpoise {Komon) are only procured when 
stranded. No eflforts are made to catch them. The seal {Ngaleman) is killed 
on the beach. 

The' dugong is caught and eaten by the natives of the north, and much skill 
is shown by them in capturing this creature. 

The natives did not use much art in cooking fish. They were thrown on the 
fire and broiled, and eaten without salt. The women often had fires in their 
canoes, and they could cook and eat the fish as soon as they were caught. In 
some parts, however, they adopted an excellent method. It is thus described 
by Grey : — 

^^ If the fish are not cooked by being merely thrown on the fire and broiled, 
they dress them in a manner worthy of being adopted by the most civilized 
nations ; this is called yudcam dookoanj or ' tying-up cooking.' A piece of 
thick and tender paper-bark is selected, and torn into an oblong form ; the fish 
is laid in this, and the bark wrapt round it, as paper is folded round a cutlet ; 
strings formed of grass are then wound tightly about the bark^and fish, which 
is then slowly baked in heated sand, covered with hot ashes ; when it is 
completed, the bark is opened, and serves as a dish : it is, of course, full of 
juice and gravy, not a drop of which has escaped. Several of the smaller sorts 
of fresh-water fish, in size and taste resembling whitebait, are really delicious 

■ee them climbing in and about the stinking carcau, choosing tit-bits. In general, the natires are 
▼ery particnlar abont not eating meat that ia fly-blown or tainted, but when a whale is in question 

this nicety of appetite Tanisbes They remain by the carcass for many days, 

rubbed from head to foot with stinking blubber, gorged to repletion with putrid meat, out of temper 
from indigestion, and therefore engaged in constant frays, suffering from a cutaneous disorder by 
high feeding, and altogether a disgusting spectacle. There is no sight in the world more reyoltipg 
than to see a young and gracefully-formed native girl stepping out of the carcass of a putrid 
whale." — North' West and Western Australia, toI. n., pp. S77-8. 

POOD. 206 

when cooked in this manner ; they occasionally also dress pieces of kangaroo 
and other meats in the same way." * 

And in other parts of Australia the natives are not so indifferent to the art 
of cooking as is generally supposed. Mr. Hodgkinson thus writes of the natives 
of the north-east coast : — 

^'Although, from the preceding details^ the Australian natives might be 
deemed the dirtiest savages in the world, with regard to the nature of the food 
they eat and their mode of cooking it, yet such is not the case. It is quite 
true, as many writers have reported, that the produce of the chase, such as 
opossums, squirrels, pademellas, guanas, ducks, &c., are thrown down, unskinned 
and unembowelled, before the fire, and devoured, entrails and all. But having 
often observed the mode of cookery pursued by the Australian Aborigines, I have 
never seen them omit to extract the entrails as soon as the animal was warmed 
through, and they are then carefully cleaned and cooked separately. With 
regard to the skin being left on (which is not always the case), it is purposely 
done, in order to retain the juices of the meat, which would otherwise be dried 
up by their simple mode of cookery ; but as soon as the animal is sufficiently 
done, the skin is easily pulled off and rejected. The Macleay Biver natives 
always clean and gut their fish, and cook them carefully on hot embers, and 
they eat nothing whatever in a raw state, except cobberra and grubs. The 
Australian Aborigines, therefore, though not remarkably scrupulous as to clean- 
liness, are, at least, equally so with the less uncivilized New Zealandefs, and 
much more so than many of the African tribes."t 

The common kinds of shell-fish eaten by the natives are as follows : — ^Presh- 
water mussel {Unio sp.) ; mussel (salt-water) (Mytilua Dunkert) ; mutton-fish 
(Hdliotis nivosa) ij^Tiwinlde {Lunella undulcUa)\ limpet {Patella tramoserica); 
and cockle {Cardium tenuicoatatum). 

The sea cucumber (JSolothuria sp,) is also eaten. 

The Bev. Mr. Bulmer gives the native names of these, as follow : — 

Fresh-water mussel - Iferridewan. Cockle - - Tagera. 

Periwinkle - - Moandara. Mutton-fish - Walkan. 

Limpet - - - Banawara. Sea cucumber - Jirawan. 

Mr. Hodgkinson says that the oyster {Ostrea mordax) is eaten by the 
natives of the Bellingen Biver, 

The crab {PsetidocarcintLS gigas) — Krangalang (Gippsland) ; and the cray-fish 
{Honuarus annulicomis) — Terndang (Gippsland) — as well as the cray-fish com- 
monly found in creeks and ponds — ^the large Murray one {Asta^oides serra^tis), 
and the smaller {A. quinqziecarinattis), afford excellent food, t 

* NarthnWe$t and Western Australia, toI. n., p. S76. 

t From Port Maeqnarie to Moreton Bay, p. 229. 

X " At Moomnde, when the Murray annually inundates the flats, fresh-water cray-fish make 
their way to the surface of the ground, from holes where they haye heen buried during the year, in 
such Tast numbers that I have seen four hundred natires lire upon them for weeks together, whilst 
the numbers spoiled, or thrown away, would haye sustained four hundred more." — Eyre*s Journal, 
Yol. u., p. 252. 


Bees^ etc. 

The native not seldom adds to his nsnal stock of food by robbing a bee-hive. 
When he sees bees busy near a tree, he can tell usually at once where the 
aperture leading to the hive is, and he proceeds to cut open the trunk with his 
tomahawk and take out the honey. Sometimes large quantities of comb are 
taken from a hive. I have myself assisted in opening a hollow tree in which a 
hive had secreted its stores, and the quantity of honey that was found in it was 
surprising. It was peculiarly flavored, but not at all inferior to the honey of 

Occasionally in the bush the hunter in olden times would see a single 
busy bee feeding on the flowers near his track. He would adroitly catch this bee 
and affix to it a particle of down, and follow it until he found its nest. 

In the narrative of the overland expedition of the Messrs. Jardine from 
Bockhampton to Cape York (1867) the following account is given of the 
native bee : — 

" This little insect (called Wirotheree in the Wellington dialect), the invasion 
of whose hoards so frequently added to the store of the travellers, and no doubt 
assisted largely in maintaining their health, is very different from the European 
bee, being in size and appearance like the common house-fly. It deposits its 
honey in trees and logs, "without any regular comb, as in the case of the former. 
These deposits are familiarly known in the colony as * sugar-bags' (sugar-bag 
meaning, aboriginicd^ anything sweet), and require some experience and pro- 
ficiency to detect and secure the aperture by which the bees enter the trees, 
being undistinguishable to an unpractised eye. The quantity of honey is some- 
times very large, amounting to several quarts. Enough was found on one 
occasion to more than satisfy the whole party. Its flavor differs from that of 
European honey almost as much as the bee does in appearance, being more 
aromatic than the latter : it is also less crystalline. As the celebrated 
*Narbonne honey' derives its excellence from the bees feeding on the wild 
thyme of the south of France, so does the Australian honey derive its superior 
flavor from the aromatic flowers and shrubs on which the Wirotheree feeds, and 
which makes it preferred by many to the European." 

Mr. Braim says that in New South Wales wild honey is collected by a small 
stingless bee, not so large as the conmion fly ; and that the honey-nest is 
generally found at the summit of remarkably high trees. The honey is of 
delicious flavor, after it has been carefully separated from the comb, the cells of 
which are generally filled with small flies. The natives, however, devour it just 
as they find it, and are very fond even of the reftise comb, with which they make 
their favorite beverage called Bully and of this they drink till they become 
quite intoxicated.* 

Professor McCoy informs me that the only bee in Victoria that makes a honey- 
comb^is the imported one {Apia mellifica). It is more than thirty years since it 
was first introduced. The honey-comb is always stored in the hollows of trees. 

* HUiory of New South Wakt, by Tbomas Heoiy Braim, 1846, toI. n., p. 248. 

POOD, 207 

The natives are very fond of the pnpse of ants. They gather them and place 
them in a tamuk; they are then mixed with the dry bark of the "stringybark'* 
tree, which they tear off the tree and rub in their hands until it is powdery. 
When this is thoroughly mixed with the so-called ants' eggs, they take up some 
in their hands and blow away the loose stuff, and finally get clean eggs to eat. 
They say they are veiy good, the taste being something like that of a mixture 
of butter and sugar. 

Mr. Wilhelmi mentions the trough of bark used by the blacks of South 
Australia for holding the pupaa of the ants. The trough is called Yuta; it is 
about four feet in length and eight inches in breadth. The natives open the 
ant-hills, and the pupaB are placed in this trough, which is shaken and so 
manipulated as to retain the pupae and to throw off the dirt and refuse. The 
season of the ants is in September and October, and during these months the 
ytUa is always seen in the hands of the natives. 

A kangaroo skin, or indeed anything at hand that will hold the contents of 
the ants' nest, is used for shaking and clearing the pupsa of dust, &c., when the 
tamui or the yuta is not to be had. 

The pup89 of the common ant {Formica consobrina) are of the size of grains 
of rice ; those of the black and red bull-dog ants (Myrmicia pyriformis and M. 
sanffuiTiea) are three-quarters of an inch in length. 

Several kinds of grubs are eaten, namely, those taken from the honeysuckle 
{Tharathun krang)^ those taken from the wattle (MarUhem krang\ and those 
from the white-gum {Ballook krang). 

All the grubs, says Mr. Bulmer, are named from the trees from which they 
are taken. Some natives prefer to eat the grubs raw ; others cook them by 
placing them for a short time in the hot ashes of a fire. 

The common grubs in Victoria are the Zeuzera citurata and Endoxyla 
etccalypti (found in the wattle), and Endoxyla n. sp. (found in the gum-trees). 

The moths — ^the Bugong moths — {Ayrotus mffusa) are greedily devoured 
by the natives ; and in former times, when they were in season, they assembled 
in great numbers to eat them, and they grew &t on this food.* 

* The BngoDg moths ooUect on the lurfaces of granite rocks on the Bugong MountainB of New 
South Wales, and in snch manner as to admit of their being caught in great numbers. Mr. G. 
Bennett says: — ^**To procure them with greater facility, the natiyes make smothered fires under- 
neath those rocks about which they are collected, and suffocate them with smoke, at the same time 
sweeping them off frequently in bushelfuls at a time. After they haye collected a large quantity, they 
proceed to prepare them, which is done in the following manner. A circular space is cleared upon 
the ground, of a size proportioned to the number of insects to be prepared ; on it a fire is lighted, 
and kept burning until the ground is considered to be sufficiently heated, when, the fire being 
remoyed, and the ashes cleared away, the moths are placed upon the heated ground, and stirred 
about until the down and wings are remoyed from them ; they are then placed on pieces of bark, 
and winnowed to separate the dust and wings mixed with the bodies ; they are then eaten or placed in 
a wooden yessel called Waibum or Caltbum, and pounded by a piece of wood into masses or cakes 
resembling lumps of fat, and may be compared in color and consistence to dough made from smutty 
wheat mixed with fat The bodies of the moths are large, and filled with a yellowish oU, resembling 
in taste a sweet nut. These masses (with which the netbuU or talabata of the natiye tribes are 
loaded daring the season of feasting upon the Bugong) will not keep more than a week, and seldom 
eyen for that time ; but by smoking they are able to preserye them for a much longer period. The 
first time this diet is used by the natiye tribes, yiolent yomiting and other debilitating effects are 


The natives also eat earth-worms — and probably the Lumbricm was most 
often taken. Whether the large earth-worm of Brandy Creek and south- 
western Gippslandy the Megctseolex Atistralis (McCoy)^ was ever used as food^ 
is not known to me. This worm is aboat four feet in length and thick in pro- 
portion, and, if it can be eaten, must afford readily the means of satisfying the 
cravings of hunger, if not of the appeasing of the appetite. It has a peculiar 
smell, like tar. 

In addition to all these, the blacks have for food the eggs of birds and 
reptiles; and indeed there is scarcely any living thing to be foimd in the 
earth, in the forests, on the plains, in the sea, or in the lakes, streams, or ponds, 
that they did not occasionally eat. 

The eggs are named thus in Gippsland — ^those of the emu, Booyanga 
MioToera; those of the swan, Booyanga Gidi; those of the duck, Booyanga 
Wreng; those of the iguana, Booyanga Bathalook; and those of the turtle, 
Booyanga Ngerta. Eggs are never eaten raw. They are always cooked in the 
ashes until hard, and they are eaten in all stages of incubation.* 

Vegetable Food, 

Some account of the kinds of tubers, bulbs, roots, leaves, and firuits which, 
before the advent of the whites, constituted the vegetable food of the iiatives 
must necessarily be given. Though there was no lack of edible roots and tubers 
in Victoria, the natives were not able to derive from their lands such great 
quantities of excellent products as are yielded by the Bunyor-bunya {Araucaria 
Bidwilli) ; the Hondo and Mondoleu (species of capparis) ; the Parpa (JFicus) ; 
the TagonAagon (mangrove — Avicennia tomentosa) ; and the rich farinaceous 
and other food obtained by the pounding, maceration, and desiccation of various 
nuts, seeds, and tubers of the many indigenous plants — ^including the palms and 
zamias — ^which are found so abundantly in the northern parts of Australia. 
Neither did the natives of the southern part of the island-continent resort even 
to rude methods of cultivation ; nor had they the knowledge to treat seeds or 
roots, in their natural state poisonous, in such a manner as to derive from them 
the tapioca-like fecula and mucilaginous pastes that afford nourishment to the 
people in the north. 

produced, bat alter a few days thej become accnttomed to its use, and then thrire and &tten 
exceedingly upon it. These insects are held in such estimation among the Aborigines that they 
assemble from all parts of the country to collect them from these mountains. It is not only the 
natire blacks that resort to the Bugong, but the crows also congregate for the same purpose." The 
natives attack the crows, kill them, and eat them, and like them very much after they haye fattened 
on the moths. Eyre mentions this moth. Not only the natives but their dogs also fattened on it. 

* <* The eggs of birds are extensively eaten by the natives, being chiefly confined to those kinds 
that leave the nest at birth, as the leipoa, the emu, the swan, the goose, the duck, ftc, But of 
others, where the young remain some time in the nest after being hatched, the eggs are usually left, 
and the young taken before they can fly. The eggs of the leipoa, or native pheasant, are found in 
flingular-looking mounds of sand, thrown up by the bird in the midst of the scrubs, and often 
measuring several yards in circumference. The egg is about the size of the goose egg, but the 
shell is extremely thin and Aragile. The young are hatched by the heat of the sand and leaves^ 
with which the eggs are covered."— £yre'« Journal^ vol* <l, p. 874. 

POOD. 209 

Inhabiting a colder climate, onr natives had to depend rather on the 
general abundance of some of the varieties of the vegetable food yielded by 
their soils than on the number, richness, and great yield of snch trees as give 
spontaneously almost unlimited supplies of fruit in certain seasons of the year. 
They had, however, like the natives of the northern parts, a complete knowledge 
of every plant that grows ; and were well able to seize the advantage when, 
during any season, or under favorable circumstances of soil or aspect, a parti- 
cular root or tuber was in abundance. 

They seem to have been unacquainted, generally, with the use, as a food, 
of the clover-fern, NardaOj though the natives of the north-western parts of 
Victoria must have had intercourse with the tribes who use it, and could 
have obtained it, sparingly, from the lagoons in their own neighbourhood. 

The people of the Lower Murray had, however, in use the appliances for 
pounding roots and grinding seeds ; and the round and flat stones are some- 
times now found on and in the vicinity of old MirrTiryong h^ps. 

Murr-nong or Mirr-rCyong^ a kind of yam (Microseris Farsteri), was usually 
very plentiful and easily found in the spring and early summer, and was 
dug out of the earth by the women and children. It may be seen growing 
on the banks of the Moonee Ponds, near Melbourne. The root is small, 
in taste rather sweet, not unpleasant, and perhaps more like a radish than 
a potato. This plant grows throughout the greater part of extra-tropical 
Australia — ^and in Tasmania and New Zealand; and it has been traced up 
to the summit of our Alps. At 6,000 feet, in alpine pastures, it assumes 
much larger dimensions than in the lowlands, and the roots are quite suit- 
able for food. Indeed, the plant is one which might be cultivated for food 
in cold countries. It is allied to the Spanish scorzonera, a well-known culi- 
naxy vegetable. 

Mr. Turner tells me that the cockatoo feeds almost exclusively on this tuber 
when the plant is in flower. 

Buckley mentions the Mirr-n^yong, which appears to have been commonly 
eaten by the natives when he was living with them.* 

In addition to the fruits of the quandang, native currant, native rasp- 
berry, and native cherry, they had also in great quantities, in many parts, 
the fruits of the mesembryanthemum, and the mucilaginous seed of the native 

The native truffle {Mylitta Atistralis), a subterranean fungus, was much 
sought after by the natives. When cut, it is in appearance somewhat like 
unbaked brown bread. I have seen large pieces weighing several pounds, and 
in some localities occasionally a fungus weighing fifty pounds is found. 

The heart of the fern-tree, the spike of the grass-tree, sweet flowers of 
several kinds, leaves of a kind of nasturtium, and the sow-thistle, were com- 
monly eaten ; and the gums exuded by the wattles and a pittosporum were also 
used as food. 

* Life and AdvmUuru of WiUiam BuckUy^ 1858, p. 85. 




The Ber. Mr. Bnlmer, in leply to my enquiries, has fornished me with a 
list of the vegetahles commonly eaten by the natiYes of Oippsland. They are 
as follows : — 

NatiTe Name. 

- TAalaak 

ComiiuNi Naae. 


Sow-thistle - 

Flag . . . 

Water-grass - 

How eaten. 

Always eaten raw. 

- Kdtwort - 

- Tocrook 

Hale fern (common fern) 
Tree-fern - - - 
Dwarf tree-fern 
Native cherry 
White currant 
Black cnrrant 
Large black cnrrant 
E[angaroo apple 

Kakawera - 
Ballot - 
Yellitbawnji - 
Lira - 
Koanyang - 

Fmit eaten raw. 

The root sometimes roasted, 

and also eaten raw. 
The root roasted in ashes: 

never eaten raw. 
Boot roasted in the ashes. 
The pith roasted in the ashes. 
The pith roasted in the ashes. 
The fimity when ripe, eaten raw. 
Fmit eaten when ripe. 
Fmit eaten when ripe. 
Fmit eaten when ripe. 
Fmit eaten when ripe. 

From Mr. Hogan, of Lake Condah, I have received also, in reply to enqniries, 
the native names of the vegetables formerly gathered for food by the Aborigines 
of the Western district. The list is as follows : — 

Katire Name. 

- Muiine' 

- Purtieh 

- Yerat or Murr-mong 

- Pekum 

- Tarook 

- Tallerk 

- Meakiteh 

- Pallert 

- Baring-koat - 
• -*wtH - • 

ont of the head of the stem, jnst below where the leaves spring, are 
very good and refreshing on a hot day, and. when roasted properly 
are excellent). 

The natives nsed also to oomponnd liqnors — perhaps after a slight fermen- 
tation to some extent intoxicating — from varions flowers, from honey, from 
gnms, and from a kind of manna. The liqnor was nsnally prepared in the 
large wooden bowls {tamuksy which were to be seen at every encampment. 
In the flowers of a dwarf species of Banksia {B. anuUa) there is a good deal 
of honey, and this was got ont of the flowers by immersing them in water. 
The water thus sweetened was greedily swallowed by the natives. This drink 
was named Beal by the natives of the west of Victoria, and was much 

OonuBon Name. 





Grass (a kind of) 

Thistle - 

Kangaroo apple 

Native cheny 

Wild raspberry 


How eaten. 






Eaten raw. 

Eaten raw. 

Eaten raw. 

Eaten raw. 

(not stated — pieces cut 

POOD. 211 

"The only sweets," says Mr. Taplin, "which the Narrinyeri knew of before 
the advent of Europeans were the honey of the native honeysuckle or Banksia; 
the honey of the grass^tree flowers {Xa?UAorrk<m), and the manna which falls 
from the peppermint-gum tree (Ettcalyptus). These they used to gather care- 
fully, and infuse them in water, and drink the infusion with great ei^joyment." * 

Little is generally known of the manna of Australia. It was, however, at 
one time an important article of food ; and in the western part of Victoria the 
natives gather it in pretty large quantities still. 

In summer the Aborigines of the Mallee country eat Ldrap, Ldrp^ or Lerp 
— ^a kind of manna. It somewhat resembles in appearance small shells ; it is 
sweet, and in color white or yellowish-white. It is gathered in December, 
January, February, and March. It is a nutritious food, and is eaten with 
various kinds of animal food. " This saccharine substance," says Baron von 
Mueller, O.M.G., in a letter to me, " is obtained from one, or perhaps from 
several, species of Eucalyptus of the Murray and Darling districts. It is not a 
real manna, but is known as lerp, a name given to it by the Aborigines." Dr« 
Thomas Dobson, of Hobart Town, many years ago referred the insect from which 
the lerp emanates to the genus Pdylla as Ps. eticalyptu Lerp is veiy different 
from the so-called manna, which is gathered from the large Etccafyptua 
piminalia occurring near Melbourne and elsewhere. [For the geographic 
range of E. vim. see 3rd vol. of Flora AtiatralienaieJ] The latter (the manna 
of the E, mminalis) emanates from a cicadeous insect — seemingly a true species 
of cicada — and the substance is amorphous ; while the lerp-mgar is of a 
crystalline and shell-like structure. Dr. Thomas Anderson, of Edinburgh, was 
the first to make known to scientific men the character and properties of lerp, 
and this was in 1849. Baron von Mueller states, further, that until the insect 
which produces lerp is collected in all its stages, and examined,* together with 
the flowering and fruiting branches of the Eticalypttcs on which the insect 
feeds, it will be impossible to give such an account of it as will be satisfactory, 
and that there may be more than one species of bush which furnishes lerp. 

Baron von Mueller adds that the so-called manna is perhaps in some 
localities a saccharine exudation of the bark of Myoporum platycarpum. 

The following account of two kinds of manna found in Victoria is given by 
the jurors in the records of the Victorian Exhibition of 1861 : — "Two varieties 
of a substance called manna are among the natural products in the Exhibition. 
One kind is ordinarily found in the form of irregular little rounded masses, of 
an opaque white color, and having a pleasant sweetish taste. In the early 
months of sunmier it is most abundant, being secreted by the leaves and slender 
twigs of the E. mminalis from punctures or ii\juries done to these parts of the 
tree. The little masses often present an aperture at one end, showing the 
attachment of the small twig from which the manna has been secreted in a 
liquid form — ^at first transparent, and of the consistence of thin honey— ^nd then, 
becoming solid, drops off in the condition that has been mentioned. It consists 
principally of a kind of grape-sugar, and about five per cent, of the substance 
called Mcmnite" 

* The Narrinyeriy p. 31. 


Another yariety of manna is the secretion of the pnpa of an insect of the 
Psylla family, and obtains the name of lerp among the Aborigines of the 
northern districts of the colony. At certain seasons of the year it is very 
abundant on the leaves of the E. dumosa, or Mallee scmb, and these are 
occasionally whitened over with the profusion of this material, so that the 
shrubby vegetation has the appearance of being iced. It is found in masses of 
aggregated cones, each covered with a filamentous material like wool, and has 
a color varying from an opaque white to a dull yellow. Beneath the little 
dome, or shield, which presents on the concave a somewhat reticulated character, 
the pupa remains until ready for its further development, when it escapes by 
forcing its passage through the apex of the cone. The woolly material alluded 
to is composed of solid filaments, more or less striated transversely, and in 
some instances distinctly corrugated or beaded; They give a faint series of 
colors by polarized light, and when submitted to the action of iodine, imme- 
diately become intensely blue. These varieties of manna are of no medicinal 
value ; and, apart from their consideration as objects of natural interest and 
curiosity, have obtained but little notice.'* 

Large quantities of this bushnsugar can be collected with ease, in the proper 
season, in the north-western parts of the colony, as well as in some localities in 
the east ; and it furnished formerly, during the summer months, a portion of 
the food of the natives. 

Lieut.-Col. Mundy gathered it near Bathurst, in New South Wales. He 
says : — ^^ It sounds strange to English ears — a party of ladies and gentlemen 
strolling out in a summer's afternoon to gather manna in the wilderness ; yet 
more than once I was so employed in Australia. The substance is found in 
small pieces, on the ground under the trees, at certain seasons, or in hardened 
drops on the surface of the leaves. It is snowy white when fresh, but turns 
brown when kept, like the chemists' drug so called ; is sweeter than the 
sweetest sugar, and softer than Gunter's softest ice-cream. The manna is 
seldom plentiful ; for birds, beasts, and human beings devour it, and the 

slightest rain or even dew dissolves its delicate compounds 

Hundreds of quails were to be found within a few paces of the manna-fields." * 

Manna as it is found in Tasmania is mentioned also by Lieut. Breton, f 

At my request, and, I know, under unusual difficulties, the Government 
Botanist has hurriedly prepared the following list of vegetables commonly 
eaten by the natives of Victoria. Though it makes no claim to completeness, 
it adds materially to our knowledge of the food-resources of the Aborigines, and 
it will be studied with great interest in all parts of Australia. The list is as 
follows: — 

"1. Tubers of numerous terrestrial orchids belonging to the genera 
DipodiuMj Gaatrodia, TAefymitra, Diuris, PrasopAylluniy MicrotiSj Pterostylis, 
LyperanthuSy CyrtostyliSy Caladenia, and Glossodia. 

* Our Antipodes, pp. 79-80. 

t ExcwMumt m New South Wales^ Wcttem Auetralit^ and Van Diemen*» Land, by Lieut. 
Breton, B.N., 1830-33. 

FOOD. 213 

2. Eoots of yarions liliaoeons small plants^ for instance^ of Arthropodium 
paniculatumj A. atrictuntj Ccesia vittcUa^ Bulbine bulbosa, Anguillaria AtcstraliSy 
Burchardia umbellcUay Tkysanotus tuberosuSy T. Patersonu , I am not certain 
whether these were used by the Aborigines always in a raw state. 

3. Tuberous roots of Geranium dissectuMj var. pilosum; also of Scirpus mart" 
tinmsj Microaeris Forateriy of two bulrushes {Typha Mtcelleri and T. Brownii)^ 
of Triglockin procerum. 

4. Young shoots, bases of leayes, and young flower-stalk and spike of the 
grass-tree {Xanthorrhcea Australis). 

5. Fruits of Solanum vescum (the Gunyang of our natives) ; fruits of many 
EpacridecB (although always small), of the genus Styphelia and its allies ; also 
of Kunzea pomifera, 

6. Fruits of two kinds of raspberry {Rulms parmfolitis and the rarer R. 
rosifolim); also of Eugenia Smitkii and of several species of Fersoonia. 

7. Seeds of the native millets (species of Panicum), particularly P. decomr- 

8. Leaves of the Nasturtium terrestrCy and several species of Cardamine and 
Lepidiumj for cress. 

9. Fruits of Mesemiryanthemum (BquikUerale (so-called ' pig-figwe '), raw, also 
the leaves baked. 

10. The mucilaginous seed of the native flax (Linum marginale). 

11. Leaves of the clover-sorrel {Oxalis eorniculata). 

12. Gum of the wattle-acacias {Aca^a decurrenSj A. pyenantAa); also of 
several other species of this genus ; also of Pittosporum pAillyroides. 

13. Berries of the native elders {Samiucus Gaudiehaudiana and S. xanthO' 
earpa); also of RAagodias. 

14. Honey-like secretion from the flowers of Banksias, or so-called native 
honeysuckles {Banksia margiTicUay B. inteyrifolia, B. serra^a, B. Cunninghamt). 

15. Fruit basis of the so-called native cherry-trees (Exocarpus cupressi- 
formiSy E. strictay E. apkylla); also fruits of the allied genus Leptomeria. 

16. The quandang, fruit of Santalum Preiaaianum; also the desert Nitraria. 

17. The sweet flowers of several species of XeroteSy and the milky unripe 
fruit of Maradenia Leichhardti* 

18. The young top shoots of the cabbage-palm {Liviatania Australia) \ 
but the value of this escxQent was not known to the natives in their uncivilized 

19. The large native truffle {Mylitta Australia). 

20. The seeds of the Portulaca oleracea (the Purslane). These can be 
gathered by a blackfellow to the extent of many pounds weight in a day; and 
they can be baked into nutritious cakes, infinitely superior to cakes made of 
nardoo flour. The plant is pulled up, the sand and earth shaken off, and it 
is then placed on bark or on kangaroo skins. Soon the lid-like upper parts of 
the seed-vessel spring off by contraction whilst drying, the numerous though 


small seeds drop ont^ and they famish, on account of their starchy albumen, a 
very wholesome food. The tubers of Pcrtulaca napiformi9 (Mueller), of ¥dde 
distribution in tropical Australia, are also used by the natives for food." * 

The natives are industrious in gathering the ripe seeds of plants in the whole 
of the large area drained by the Biver Murray. In some parts, as on the Paroo, 
the women may be seen in troops returning to their miams with the produce of 
the day's labor. Each has a little wooden shoe-shaped vessel on her head, full 
of seeds, and one woman follows another — Indian file. Their dark, perfectly 
naked figures ; their graceful attitudes as they change their steps and gait to 
preserve the equipoise of the load they bear on their heads ; the merry tones of 
their voices as they exchange gossip by the way ; the character of the country, 
flat, and but scantily covered with vegetation in many places — all in strict har- 
mony with the rather savage aspect of the procession ; the warm tints in the 
sky, and the spears of yellow light gilding every object on which they fall — 
form altogether a novel and not unpleasing spectacle to the stranger. When 
the women reach their homes, they proceed to grind the seeds of the nardoo and 
grass between two stones. The larger flat stone, about eighteen inches in length, 
one foot in breadth, and about two inches in thickness, is caUed YeUa on the 
Darling ; and the smaller, held in the hand — ^the other larger stone resting on 
the ground — ^is about six inches in length, five inches in breadth, and one inch 
or more in thickness. The latter is named Nay-ka, The stones used for grind- 
ing in nearly all parts of the Darling are Silurian sandstones, and when the 
seeds are ground up and made into paste, the natives necessarily swallow a 
quantity of sand with each morsel. Water is added as they grind the seeds, 
and they scoop up the paste with the forefinger. In some places the {>a8te is 
baked into cakes. 

Dr. Qummow states that the fruits of the nardoo were used by the natives 
of the Lower Murray in Victoria ; and the seeds of grasses, no doubt, were 
likewise ground up and eaten. 

Dr. Gummow mentions also, as vegetable food eaten by the people of the 
Lower Murray in Victoria, the sow-thistle, used as a kind of salad, the gum of 
the acacias, and manna. '^The roots of the Compungyaj^ he says in his* letter 
to me, ^' are in appearance like sticks of celery, and when baked much resemble 
the potato, from the quantity of starch contained in them." 

Mr. Cairns, writing of the food of the natives of the same district, says that, 
according to information afforded him by Mr. P. Beveridge, the ^^ kumpung 
springs up from the root, throttgh the water, about the end of August, or as soon 
as the weather becomes slightly warm. When about a foot in length above the 
water, the natives puU it up and eat it for food in an uncooked state. In flavor 

* " The Portulacem are aU innozioaa plants, poeseaaed of yerj little either smell or taste, and not 
remarkable for any actiye properties. Their leaves are for the most part fleshy, and often edible. 
The common purslane {Portulaca oieraeea) is cnltirated on the continent as a dietetic regetable, 
and esteemed, notwithstanding its insipidity, for the readiness with which it takes the fiayor of 
more sapid yiands. The seeds of purslane are said to be anthelmintic. . . . The Da-i-'kai of 
Caffiraria, the roots of which are eatable, is a purslane." — OutUrus of Botany. Burnett, p. 740. 

The GoTemment Botanist is to be commended for drawing attention to the properties of this 
plant. Erexy explorer and erery bushman should make himself acquainted with it. 

POOD. 215 

it IB very insipid, but extremely satisfying, and in this state is termed by the 
natives Jautey. It is fiill grown or nearly so by the time the waters recede, and 
remains green nntil the frosts come round, when it becomes quite brown, and, if 
not destroyed by fire, continues so until the young shoots spring up the follow- 
ing season; and so it goes on from year to year, until it becomes so thick as to 
be impervious to the sun, thus rendering the ground quite swampy and impass- 
able for stock. In the summer the natives dig up the roots, which they either 
roast or boil [?], and after masticating them, and obtaining all the starch there- 
from, they retain the stringy, fibrous parts in lumps, which the lubras cany about 
with them in their nets or bags, like carefril housewives, until such be required 
for making strings or threads, which they afterwards net into bags, girdles, and 
other useftd articles." 

Baron von Mueller, it is said in the paper from which I have quoted, has 
examined this particular kind of Australian bulrush, and has found it to be 
closely allied to a species found in Switzerland — ^the Typha, ShuUleworthi* 

Berries of several kinds were gathered by the natives of Victoria ; and on 
the coast at Port Lincoln, in South Australia, the plant known there as karambi 
{Nitraria Billardierii) affords large quantities of a pleasant cool fruit It is 
found on the western coast of Spencer's Gulf, growing on high sandhills ; and, 
when the weather is hot, the natives lie at full length under a bush, and do not 
leave it until they have stripped it of its berries. The fruit is in form and size 
like an olive, and is of a dark-red color.! 

In North- Western Australia the blacks prepare and eat the By-yUy the pulp 
of the nut of a cycas, which in its raw state is poisonous. It is mentioned by 
Capt. Cook, and well described by Grey : — " The native women collect the nuts 
from the palms in the month of March, and having placed them in some shallow 
pool of water, they leave them to soak for several days. When they have 
ascertained that the iy-yu has been immersed in water for a sufficient time, they 
dig, in a dry sandy place, holes which they call mar^dak; these holes are about the 
depth that a person's arms can reach, and one foot in diameter ; they line them 
with rushes, and fill them up with the nuts, over which they sprinkle a little sand, 
and then cover the holes nicely over with the tops of the grass-tree ; in about a 
fortnight the pulp which encases the nut becomes quite dry, and it is then fit to 
eat ; but, if eaten before that, it produces the effects already described [acting 
as a most violent emetic and cathartic]. The natives eat this pulp both raw 
and roasted ; in the latter state they taste quite as well as a chestnut." t 

This method of treating the nut has been carried undoubtedly from the 
jiorth-east to the north-west 

Nardoo {Marsilea qtuidrifolia), previously referred to, the fruits of which 
form much of the vegetable food of the natives of the Cooper's Creek district, is 
extensively distributed, and owing to the different characters it presents— due to 
the season when it is gathered, the greater or less moisture in the soil in which 

^Oxley ttates in his Joamid (1817-18) that he saw the natiree eating the roots of thistles 

fWilhelmi^p. 173. 

X Norihr' West and We&Um Awtraluif rol n., p. 896. 


it grows, and the temperatnre and hmnidity of the air — a great number of varie- 
ties have been collected and named by botanists ; but the Government Botanist, 
who has examined aU the Australian Marsileca that have been named, is of 
opinion that they are referable to one species, the typical Linnasan Marsilea 
gicadrifolia. " Tie nutritive properties of the Marsilea fruit," says Baron von 
MueUer, " are evidently very scanty. It seems to contain but slight traces of 
protein combinations, and but little starch, its nourishing property resting 
mainly on a mucilage, pertaining to a certain extent of that of the seed-testa of 
flax, cress, quince, zygophyllum," Ac* 

Mr. Qtwon very accurately describes the nardoo: — "A very hard fruit, a 
flat oval, of about the size of a split pea ; it is crushed or pounded, and the 
husk winnowed. In bad seasons this is the mainstay of